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Brent Gutzeit - Drug Money

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Artist: Brent Gutzeit

Album: Drug Money

Label: Kranky

Review date: Jul. 26, 2004

Brent Gutzeit fashions subtly shifting ambient layers into nearly static atmospheres on his second proper solo release, Drug Money. Music so slow demands a certain generosity from the listener, a certain openness to different ways of hearing and processing sound. Paying attention too closely, for too long, risks disengagement or boredom. However, allowing Gutzeit to settle into the corners and crevices can spawn some surprisingly meditative moments, enough to slow your pulse and alter your senses.

Kranky Records in Chicago spends a good deal of time supporting the warmer side of drone, from their earliest Labradford releases through the sunburst guitars of Windy and Carl and the expanded string palette of the Stars of the Lid. Many of these groups work with intensely processed guitars and synthesizers, suggesting the otherworldly outer spaces of Tangerine Dream more than the spiked drones of Tony Conrad, John Cale, or Kevin Drumm. Drug Money continues the trend, although Gutzeit’s choice of instrumentation fits better among the latter three – electric motors placed on piano wires.

Drug Money benefits from a good set of headphones and fully cranked volume. Sounds that could fall into inconsequential hums acquire a density and liveliness that home stereos can miss. Even on headphones, though, some of the source material gets so thoroughly worked over that Gutzeit’s drones occasionally fall flat. “Piano Motor Skills #2,” the first of the album’s three drone pieces, creaks along, tense and metallic. On top of dark tones and bulbous reverberating bells, these slivers of texture create a heavy weight, like a rusted Titanic shifting on the ocean floor. The other two drone tracks, “Riding Horses” and “400 Blows,” emphasize too much trance and not enough of the distinguishing edges. Despite the obvious care in their construction, their smoothness relegates them too far into the background.

The fourth and final track (which is also unlisted) barely registers except for a few twig crackles and bird chirps. For a few moments, ringing atmospheres crawl underneath these concrete field recordings in an elegant combination of synthetic and natural elements. These moments of combination, as with the increased density of “Piano Motor Skills #2” demonstrate Brent Gutzeit’s talent sculpting sound. While the rest of Drug Money achieves a calm and meditative mood, it might work better in a live setting where the sound can truly envelop the audience from all sides.

By Jeff Seelbach

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