Illusion of Safety – ORGAN CHOIR DRONE

8.25.23 by Matty McPherson

Arvo Zylo has been keeping me in his thoughts I assume. A couple years back, Ryan tapped me to consider ESCHATOLOGY, a massive 12 tape endeavor of 24 noise splits and subterranean rumblings. It’s an essential release of the 2020s if you have the $65+ to shell out and are deeply invested in the practicing of noise and the doctors who do so on a global scale. Zylo sent one my way, but the truth was I couldn’t review that; there wasn’t an in for me in a different listening mindset. I admired it immensely though, and it gave me an in to the world Zylo has sought to curate and network. And ESCHATOLOGY did make our 2021 list and recieved a nod on that podcast, because the efforts of Zylo & the No Part of It label should not go undocumented or unacknowledged; that truly is cassette art at its finest and only rivaled by a few releases this decade in terms of unabashed sincerity and dedication to the noise. Even as I sit 8 stories high overlooking the Coronado bridge, any No Part of It release reminds me of a subterranean world that is out there waiting for the architecture to collapse and a new dawn to rise out of the ashes.

It’s why when I received a new package from Zylo out of the blue, with no immediate warning, return address, or MO, I was both a bit caught off guard but deeply humbled. Something in Zylo’s wisdom had tipped him off that I’d had Amek Drone Ensemble’s Op. 1 on the boombox for sleepy time listening. Thus, Illusion of Safety’s Organ Choir Drone seemed like the next thing that was to be. Even finally listening to it months later, fresh out of the shrink wrap, I’m amazed by the project’s sense of time. Illusion of Safety is celebrating 40 years of unlimited noise potential; releases from Digitalis Limited to WFMU, amongst a long running partnership with Zylo’s No Part of This are just a few of the breadcrumbs on discogs. It all offers a steady directions of limitless directions to choose from, as long as you like it black as can be. While there were a period of 2010s “wilderness” years with no releases, Daniel Burke’s project has been slowly cranking out tapes and reconnecting with No Part of It for a proper cassette return since 2013’s Surrender.

Daniel Burke invite Zylo to work with him in putting together a new release. By “putting together” that meant a return to the catacombs of Burke’s audio dungeon. Combing what source material could either be degraded into the tracklist, or was already a finished soundscape–just in need of the “Zylo Treatment”. It makes for a particularly touching collaboration for the noiseniks; raw Burkian sound, Zylo touches of humid noise or breakneck bass. All the while Burke is able to reconnect to raw materials or moments of triumph, like Eurorack modular sketches from 2010, used for a late Spring 2011 performance.

Organ Choir Drone might be noteworthy for how much it promises and teases an organ drone, but opts to keep it out of the frame. The first two cuts, over 12 minutes, dart between screetchy-leechy eurorack stigmata, or low-flying ambient terror; with a low-end rumble akin to black helicopters over the compound. The brevity of these pieces make for tender snapshots; both Burke and Zylo were feeding off of each other, and what Zylo was opting to curate carefully around exploring all aspects of this blackened noise, especially considering 3 of the later cuts run over 10 minutes. By track 3, Organic Pistons, when we even are finally come ear to ear with a droning organ it lulls like hunchback bells. Rumbling with a furious low end that channels a lot of intensity under an incredible sullen, discomfortingly reverent organ drone. Waste of Civilization mends all 3 of the previous side A pieces together into straight up stalker-plasma. Flashes of light come through, amongst radio static silence and the haunting non-organ drone. Yet it’s truly haunted by a piercing sound, one parallel to ferric tape wailing–if you’ve got old Columbia or EG tapes you know the sound. Quixotic in the best of ways as a listener; an extra layer of immersion to the experience.

Side B comes back bigger and deffer. It opens with a literal piece called Black Helicopters! And it sure does sound like sky monsters scraping the sky, surmounting a steelworker’s drone even Norman W. Long would shed a tear towards. That it happens to features a processed guitar chord loop gives it dimension and a space to expand to and let take over, curling over the chord into a new liquid drone. Groundswell Horns seamless enters into focus, an all encompassing blackened ambient dub cut for it’s first dozen or so minutes. It wisely jettisons any real sense of motion; just crackles, subterranean bass rumbles, and a small growl of horns. It lashes in a thrilling, visceral manner as piece swells into alien noise generator tones in its final third. It won’t swallow you whole, but it’ll really unhinge your swagger. Enough for the detente of Blackout to land as both a blessed field recording sanctuary and a heartbeat-skipping claustrophobic closing to the C50. A baptism in Eurorack never felt so spine-tickling.

Edition of 100 Tapes Available Now at the NO PART OF IT Bandcamp Page