Nicholas Szczepanik :: Not Knowing (Desire Path)

‘The dirt stuck in the crack that runs along the splintered baseboard in the closed-off half of the attic that no one ever enters.’ (Nicholas Szczepanik)

The legend above, anchorage to Nicholas Szczepanik‘s web presence, may resonate with bedroom Angst, but could equally be knowing play with isolationist void-staring stereotype. No Doom-monger, nor Fluff-merchant (here’s Nicky!), there’s evidence of darkness in Not Knowing with its tribute to Eliane Radigue crediting ‘the haven found in her music’ while going through ‘a rough patch.’ The variety of tones of his Dronemeister’s voice was apparent in 2011’s Ante Algo Azul, a set of medium-form works inaugurated by Not Knowing. Intriguing enough as an episodic mono-drone, opened up here into a fifty-minute micro-symphony for the Tangents series (for works not fitting Desire Path’s customary vinyl), it takes on a whole new dimension, seemingly modeled in its dull-lull-null→radiant-full-on→return to dull-lull-null structure on Radigue’s inspirational L’Île Re-Sonante.

Szczepanik has taken pains to hone his drone, the likes of Sueños and Entre los Árboles recent confirmation of credentials, centered on interplay of pure frequencies and harmonic synth sustains, respectively. Not Knowing has the two stylings converge in a slow-flow synth’n’string epic replete with timbral brownian motion. Beginning and ending with the same ominous rumble, in between is as eventful as minimal drone can get while retaining ontological essence. As it unfolds, it blooms in ever-evolving allure–returning in ending to quiescence. First a chthonic rumble, intermittent light pulsating, eldritch, mysterious movement in its thrum-hum, tension from deep bass growl. Then the grim minimal pulsing creeps slowly toward a rapture of strings, captured and tweaked with antique effect for a feeling of remotion. A spark ignites to a glow, growing to all-encompassing radiance, streaming, cascading, with joy and hurt. The strings sway in classical cadence, alluring, sentimental, inside a vortex, before orchestral steepling declines, falls, retreating to vanishing point. One sequence fades out, the other fades in, colliding, colluding in a beauteous and unsettling blur. The soft neo-romanticist air switches from solace to desolation, with a caustic tone changing tenor, a transition from somewhat maudlin beauty to something more ambivalent. Ending unresolved.

All in all, the delicate suspense of Not Knowing, its long form minimalism and neo-romantic expressionism, showcases the artist’s careful craft, pointillist precision and finesse in finer detail. The Radigue hommage is apposite; like her works, it’s endowed with a subtle balance of chronostasis and constant micro-variation, shifting through new worlds with little consciousness of movement, but much transport.

Not Knowing is available on Desire Path.

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