Working out of Portland, Oregon, electronic artist Dylan M. Howe has spent the last decade crafting everything from murky insular spaces to vast, shimmering soundscapes. Under aliases such as Airsports, C Plus Plus and Portland Compressor, Howe has occupied the intersections of ambient, drone and dance to produce sounds at once industrial and alien, his oeuvre a patchwork that brings to life a present haunted by the past and polluted by the banalities of every imagined future.
This month sees Dylan M. Howe team up with Lobby Art to release Southern Gap, the first proper album under his own name. Building upon the foundations of his previous work, the record finds an artist at the height of his powers, the ten years of groundwork leading to a newfound clarity and assurance. “Southern Gap is a confident gesture,” writes Sam Wenc (AKA Post Moves). “A patient and pensive collection of tracks that point to an artist valuing growth, expansion and peace with the palette in which they color their world.”
Thematically, Southern Gap is concerned with the empty and the derelict, evoking structures stripped of their intended purpose, left as monuments to a sense of hope and ambition that has long since receded into irrelevance. “This is music for buildings that no longer serve a human purpose,” Howe explains. “A sonic embodiment of spaces that were once meant for dwelling but can function as such.”
The pervasive drone of opener ‘Arcade Flutes’ conjures such spaces, housing nothing beyond draughts and damp air and a creeping sense of loss. The melodica and other sounds warbling beneath the tone are echoes of a squandered future, old energies vibrating, haunting, merged now with the creak of the wind and drip of the walls. Community, it seems, has long since departed from Howe’s world. Only isolation and its steady decay are waiting for us now.
Its downbeat opening spoken word segment like some elegy for lost things, ‘Ritual For Conscious Dying’ continues such ideas, pushing a brooding ambient sound toward a subtle dub beat. In shading its melancholic spirit with an ominous edge, the track is suggestive of some dark force within time, or perhaps some ulterior timelessness, a lurking menace that will outlast us and our plans, and sweep into the hollow remains when all else is gutted. Is it any wonder then that we spend to much time looking backward, towards the past?
There’s a near geological weight to ‘Ninety Blocks’, its organ hum needling high and falling again, an earth force of rock and gas and heat. Wenc draws an accurate comparison to the work of Kali Malone, the track sharing the same willingness, be it patience or bravery or resolve, that made The Sacrificial Code so besetting and moving. With its delicate rumbling synths and cyclical discordant samples, closer ‘Courtyard’ brings to mind other sources, the sinister industrial dread of Pye Corner Audio blended with the atonal, obscured violence of Dean Hurley’s work on Twin Peaks. The track is a fitting conclusion, painting a world in which echoes rise to replace all things, and mourning this loss with a plaintive, wounded hum.
We’re delighted to share the record in full a few days early, so grab your headphones and dig in below: