REVIEW: IE – “Ark”

Ark, the new two-song, 39-minute opus by IE, takes about nine minutes to get cooking. And, when it does, it generates enough heat that you’ll pardon the wait.

The introductory composition in question is “–|,” a long-form drone that gradually shifts the footing on its tone and tune with under-the-surface contributions from what sounds like a myriad of instruments. But it’s barely there, projecting an ethereal or other-worldly quality as it meanders through passages that are once somber and majestic. If you can give yourself over to it – for some, that might be a big IF – you’ll be rewarded duly.

So goes it with “o—L — — –,” whose drone in more mechanical and pronounced (think bagpipes pumped through a guitar-fuzz medal, or a kind of metallic halo) but still rises to the kind of subliminal, unspoken/under-spoken beauty of the first track. Again, the instruments wail and howl deep below a surface of ammonium drone-clouds and the pitch shifts but what can be transfixing is not the technique but the ambiance. Around the 14-minute mark, the drone gives way to a flutter of electronic blurbs and blurps, and later recycles early organ-like chorale notes. In the right context, it’s riveting.

Now, a little background. Late last year, Minneapolis-based IE collaborated with local artist Sam Gould, setting up a large stack of speakers in the style of a Jamaican sound system, adding three amplifiers, and pressing record. Ark was born. This must have been something else to hear live and, from the sounds of the void-wails on this outing, it must have been aurally drenching. We are left, instead, with the recorded document and, while it will have detractors in experimental circles, I, for one, think it hits the nail square.


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.