Dronelock & Ontal :: The Topics (Shadow Story)

A powerful album, showing masters working the deeper realm of atmosphere, soundscapes and subtle rhythms.

Dronelock & Ontal :: The Topics

Dronelock & Ontal’s The Topics expands on their Parallax EP released earlier in 2015 and it’s a major evolution in their sound. Using little or no melodies is one of their major strengths as well as atmospheric and rhythmic elements to create some powerful, moving pieces of not just music but scenic sonic portraits. Dronelock & Ontal’s expert compositional use of dynamics, variations and above all restraint is key; the cliched elements of metallic sounds, distortion, reverb and delay could easily make this just another booming dark dance album without those restrictions.

The Topics varies between this balance of atmospheric and beat driven pieces. “Basic Methodology” kicks off the album, combining atmospheric piano with a gritty underdrone. “Deductive Reasoning” arrives with a four to the floor kick drum under an urgent bassline. Polyrhythmic loops about midway through give it a nice listening edge. The track has a solid, aggressive drive to it, marrying dance floor aesthetics with atmospheric flourishes for a dramatic edge. Its perfect for a club, home or roaring down the highway on a dark rainy night in pursuit of a villain or a lost lover—or both.

In “Discovery of The Senses,” radio messages from deep space evolve into throbbing sub-bass like the sleeping heart of a leviathan washed up on dark shores while a pattering rhythm gives way to further radio noise, faint synth lines like droning wails out of the fog. Dronelock & Ontal’s deft use of restraint is most evident here, with elements fading in and out, producing a feeling of mystery and dread.

“Investigation of Similarities” pits opposing arpeggiated sounds against each other, providing a solid base for drum beats like a path laid for a runner as they dash headlong into darkness. The sparse use of synth leads allows for a greater depth of feeling which makes the abrupt reverb slam of an ending all the more powerful.

The muffled melodies of “May Or May Not Belong” belie a very faint resemblance to Boards of Canada but only for reference; this could never be mistaken for BOC with it’s depth and darkness. “Better Or Worse” continues this dark atmospheric turn, with quiet brooding thumps and slow synth lines snaking over dial tones and white noise wash, the sound of lost connections in a crumbling seaside town.

“Sources of Argument” is a dance throbber with a hard hitting kick drum underpinning heaving rhythmic washes and metallic beats. “Essential Attribute” offers a surprise with a slower pace and melodic element in the forefront, signaling a different set of tools in Dronelock & Ontal’s arsenal than we’ve heard so far. “Attack and Defend” is the most in your face aggressive track of the album, almost like a Nitzer Ebb backing track.

The Topics is a powerful album, showing masters working the deeper realm of atmosphere, soundscapes and subtle rhythms.

The Topics is available on Shadow Story.

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