Martijn Comes | Perception, Spectra and the Crystalline Sublime

In March of this year, Martijn Comes, the multifaceted Dutch composer, released his spectral drone opus, Interrogation of the Crystalline Sublime. The release comes as a 2CD set — the second disc featuring eight exclusive remixes from various artists — by way of Moving Furniture Records. As Kim Cascone’s liner notes divulge, “the drone” can be much more than merely a tone that’s been propelled into steady-state motion. When done right, drone music can be rich, dense, and chalk full of colour. It can feel boundless, timeless, and even synesthetic, transporting a listener into a previously unknown state of awareness and perception. A good slice of drone can make a listener’s reality melt away, leaving them in a moment that feels untethered by time.


As a conscious effort to produce an hour-long drone piece that taps into an auditory dimension of pure sensory dissolve, Comes about nails it. What Interrogation… lacks in palpable variation, it makes up for in its fight to maintain an exquisite stasis. The piece feels unlike a straight line from beginning to end, but a ripple of waves whose circles start small but expand as the work unfolds. Comes fills in the space with a deep well of sound sources that exist both in harmony and flux with one another. Microtonal string vibrations intermingle with the rapid undulations of drones whose origins remain a mystery. The warm din of analog hiss is cold-fused into the mechanics of the piece, creeping in on long, slow arcs, while a low-end rumble snakes its way through, filling in the music’s vast use of the sound spectrum.

Disc two of the remixes starts things off with Scant Intone’s “Remain Silent,” staying truest to the flavour of Comes’ piece with a vibrant, harmonic drone as its focus. From here the remixes take on many shapes, each artist taking on a more varied approach than the last. It’s a shame I’m hardly familiar with any of these names, as I’m sure that in at least a few of these pieces one might pick-up on some trademark stylings. I could take or leave Zeno van den Broek and Alberto Boccardi’s efforts for disjointed recontextualization, but the back half remains choice. The slow build of Giulio Aldinucci and Orphax’s pieces make them feel like proper scaled down interpretations of the original, each one providing a welcomed emotional punch at the disc’s finishing line.

The only logical step from here is to return to disc one and start the cycle over again, where we can further recall and connect the words of Kim Cascone: “The drone is not a steady-state sound but a constellation of sound objects that lie hidden beneath a simple surface. The listener can penetrate this surface when they allow time to exist in a space where the past and future collapse into an infinitesimal, yet infinite, moment.” It is from this space that Martijn Comes invites you to join him, not as audience member, but as lone forest wanderer, lost in a moment, in search of the crystalline sublime.

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