Thomas Köner - Daikan

#music #drone

October 10, 2014

No matter how much I listen to drone ambient, I find myself constantly surprised by the difference a choice of a frequency or texture can make. Long as they usually are, the impact of drone compositions relies mostly on subtle build-ups of layers of sound, some becoming more prominent while others are being slowly phased out as the piece advances. With no place for sudden changes, all the dramaturgy is carried by elaborate manipulation of finely tuned harmonies.

Thomas Köner’s Daikan is one of my favourite recordings of this type. True to its title (“daikan” means “coldest” or “extreme cold” in Japanese), it paints a picture of a vast, desolate, bleak space, nature of which is gradually revealed by gentle oscillations of synthetic drones, dominating the album. While unwelcoming, this space is not necessarily dark. To the contrary, it feels like flooded with light - bright, cold, with no identifiable source. Perfectly ambient.

The ostensibly frozen landscape is not completely dead. Initial parts of Daikan build a sense of a foreboding, perhaps supernatural, presence. With deliberate changes in pitch and intensity, Köner suggests existence of something disquieting, lurking in the background. A being not fully alive, but definitely active, perhaps waiting for a right stimulus to finally awaken. It may not even be organic - an element of ancient machinery, still functional, even if long abandoned and forgotten.

The exact form of what Daikan elicits in never fully revealed. An endless ice desert, an enormous ancient spaceship buried under the ice mantle of Uranus, an abandoned crystal palace of unknown origin - these sceneries fit the album equally well. Each very different but each having frosting decay and loneliness as their common, central theme.

Sparse and constrained to a small selection of recurring patterns, Köner’s music succeeds at feeding imagination with enough material to evoke a multitude of fictional worlds. Despite its overbearing coldness, it is also strangely soothing, pacifying me and compelling me to listen to it in one, satisfying session every time I come back to it. Perhaps the aesthetics of desolate spaces strongly appeal to my taste. More probably, the powerful effect is there due to Köner’s mastery of his craft.