When Guy Andrews plunged into the midst of Storm Dennis at the start of the year, he can’t have imaged the maelstrom swirling around him would be a mere footnote come the end. At least five people were killed in the storm across the UK and large areas were devastated by the following floods – it was, looking back, a glowering portent of a far worse deluge to come.
Andrews made music from “the sheer power” Dennis brought to London in February, to be released a few months later as “Twenty Seven Inches Of Mercury,” a reference to the low pressure levels recorded by the Met Office at the height of the storm. It was something of a surprise, being Andrews’ first release for around two years, and it felt suitably blustery – if not a little premonitory – when it arrived during the UK’s first lockdown. But to hear “Twenty Seven…” now is quite uncanny: Andrews certainly achieved his goal of capturing “a sonic fingerprint of time,” though what time exactly that was has now been knocked off kilter considerably. To immerse oneself in its drenching rain today is to feel somehow cleansed; to feel its churning gusts a welcome respite from our continuing containment; and to emerge from its faltering coda is to question the progress of time itself.
As it happens, “Twenty Seven…” was a mere precursor to two further releases Andrews had prepared this year. In September, a new LP arrived in the form of Permanence, and the trilogy has now been completed by [MT][NT][ET]. The differences between the three are stark, although the tracks are listed numerically to provide an element of continuation between both LPs.
Dennis’ destructive influence remains present throughout Permanence: the bass hits with meteorological force, frequent rumbles of thunder punctuate the album’s flow, beats come and go like lamps in a powercut, and there’s an itchy galvanism pinging around the fringes of tracks like “1.4” and “1.7” that you can almost feel in your teeth. The album is skittish in its stylistic jumps, as though lost in a wet field of severed cables. Where the bass might reach Roly Porter levels of deep one minute, a short, sharp shock the next induces a celestial flatline.
Largely beat-free and scratched to a start by the sound of Andrews’ pencil flicking across a sheet of paper, [MT][NT][ET] is instantly more intimate. Described by the artist as a study of sleep and the different ways it can affect people dependent on their personal situations, the listener can expect a far less rocky journey – deep breathing, starlit synth twinkles and cavernous echoes, the storms internalised and semi-somnambulant, heavy with the temperate swells of slumber. More than a companion piece to Permanence, it is fogged-up reflection of it in the back of a spoon.
The sonic touchstones now are drone and dark ambient artists from the realm of Thomas Köner, SleepReasearch_Facility and Scanner – [MT][NT][ET] wouldn’t be out of place, in fact, on a label like Glacial Movements. It washes by slowly, with the majority of its gentle development taking place deep behind recognisable motifs such as the coming and going of tides and the cooling flap of night air through windows left ajar.
There’s so much going on here at times, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by the depth of its layers as you marvel at the skill, patience and craft that must have gone into its construct. The movements slide in and out of one another with natural ease, from the almost sepulchral atmosphere of “2.3” to the all-neurons-firing burst of activity that takes “2.5” into the practically silent closer.
As with Permanence, [MT][NT][ET] is offered as an unbroken half-hour as well as the individual tracks. Absolute immersion in the former is surely the recommended dose; as this hellish year comes to a close, thank Guy Andrews for making it all at least somewhat bearable.