Doldrums – Secret Life Of Machines

4 out of 5

Label: VHF Records

Produced by: Justin Chearno, Bill Kellum, Matt Kellum

Shimmering into view across the 10-minute haze of Weird Orbits, the distancing effect of the blanket-across-the-speakers sound of Doldrums’ slow-roll collabo of guitars, faded vocals, and drums seems to match the band name: a listless crawl noise crafted during downtime. But the song takes shape during this runtime, becoming not exactly warmer, but more present, and the album title finds credence as well, as, even with that voice way in the background, maybe this is music as crafted by some automatons, adapting, moment by moment, to how drone becomes melody. By the time Orbits has clicked over to followup Colossal Scissors – a maybe silly title, but also absolutely fitting – this approach has worked some magic, and you’re caught in a fitful push and pull between the music’s sedate qualities and a kind of rumbling, unsettled undercurrent, which kicks in more affectingly with Scissors comparative volume and clearer drumming and riffing. A large machination, now given sharp edges; that’s your relevance.

Further over-serious analysis is offset by the other song titles – Prog Epilogue (although, having some further ‘Machine’ fun there, this starts off with a lawn mower noise); Knife, Spoon, Zug; HTMLosers – but the magic continues. The very unproggy Prog and Knife both ebb and flow between some clatter, identifiable psych-y rock, and drone warbles. Closer HTMLosers starts out very strong in this regard, but is also the only track where things start to feel random and spread out instead of immersive, the latter half of the song stopping and starting several threads; no longer one long thought. Maybe that’s fitting for the “theme” – the machine is now cooling down, or perhaps breaking – and maybe it’s just part of the band’s attitude, the kind of humor that would have one labeling this 52-minute release an EP.

Despite this crack in the absorbing nature of the album, it’s an incredible experience, and draws a wiggly line from drone to improv to psych that’s still a unique experience to this day.