Locals: Drose continues evolution on boy man machine
The concept of transformation surfaces throughoutboy man machine(Orange Milk), the latest full-length from avant-noise trio Drose, informing everything from singer/guitarist Dustin Rose's words - at various points on the album the frontman howls about ripping flesh from bone and evolving into some unknown form - to the music itself, which relies less on traditional instrumentation and increasingly on recorded samples of in-operation machinery.
"It was definitely a constant narrative when I was making [the record]: What's the next step?" said Rose, who joins drummer John Mengerink and guitarist Gregory Packet for an album release show at Double Happiness on Saturday, May 14. "It probably [stems from] my natural obsession with machines and technology, and then at the same time I'm fascinated with primitive things, and skin and bone kind of stuff. Different animals have different technology, right? Mankind, we keep thinking we're improving our reality, but I don't know that we are. The album is about … not knowing the next step in that evolution. It's about spiraling toward some lifeless, transcendental thing."
The music further reflects this transformation, hinging on samples recorded across a wide technological spectrum, including high-end, six-figure machines (a computer-controlled cutter) and budget appliances (the creak of a rickety oven door). It's a direction Drose has experimented with in the past - early recordings featured everything from a cordless drill to a hydraulic sheer press - though never this fully.
"[Those early songs] really started me down the path toboy man machine and trying to do a lot of that, where maybe there was no guitar and it was just drums and machines," said the Roanoke, Virginia-born Rose, who finds inspiration in everything from his work as a mechanic to the out-there explorations of similarly minded musicians like Scott Walker, Diamanda Galas and U.S. Maple. "The guitar has become an obscure thing to me. It's a foundational element, or something that's there because I've played guitar for a long time, but on the album there are several tracks with no guitar, or very sparse guitar, where it plays a small part in the whole thing. It made a big difference because you get a totally different atmosphere, which was the whole point."
This sense of atmosphere was further heightened by the recording locale. Sessions took place at Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research, inside a "concrete cabin," as Rose described it, that serves as a test site to measure the power output of bus and semi-truck engines.
"It's this huge, modular facility where they have these big rollers in the floor to park the tires of the bus or truck … so you can measure the power and efficiency," Rose said. "[The area under the rollers] was the size of a swimming pool, about four-feet deep, and the entire thing was covered with inch-thick steel plates."
For recording, Rose would use a forklift to raise a single plate, and the musicians would then crawl into the darkened cavity, which was partially illuminated with a pair of floodlights. The claustrophobic, subterranean sensation they experienced bleeds into songs like the percussive "A Clay Mind," where Rose rasps, "If I stop breathing I die" as the music threatens to close in on him like a trash compactor.
"The space had this constant breath to it," Rose said. "At the end of the first track ('The Unraveling') there's probably a minute of nothing, but that nothing is what it sounded like under there. That [atmosphere] is the real foundation; it's the ambience of the whole album."
Though much of the album reflects the character of the recording space - the music is generally dark, claustrophobic and oppressive - the record ends on a comparatively soft note with "His Reflection," easily the prettiest, most promise-filled song in Drose's brutal catalogue.
"Maybe it's some attempt at creating an element of comfort with the unknown, or the brutality people hear in [the music]," Rose said. "I wanted to leave on something like that. It's at the end of the album, but it's not the end of the story."
9 p.m. Saturday, May 14
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ALSO PLAYING: Muscle Puzzle, Voice Cross