Blackwolfgoat is the solo experimental project of Black Pyramid, The Scimitar and Milligram guitarist Darryl Shepard, and “Drone Maintenance” is the third album he has recorded in this guise. It comes three years after its predecessor “Dronolith” and is very much a different beast. This is a loose concept album, which has added acoustic guitars and a few vocal samples to take what as done on “Dronolith” and move it onto another level.
After a brief introduction (the first of three “drone reports” that punctuate the album and seem to mark different sections of this release) comes ‘Notausgang’ beckoned in by a Casio keyboard style beat, and overlaid with different guitar loops and an uplifting lead which gives the album a bright start. After this, things take a solemn turn, with ‘Sunfall’ and ‘Fahey’ offering a much more downbeat loops and minimal tones to great effect. The tunes still feel expansive and not claustrophobic despite their limited sound. The songs flow really well together before the second of the drone reports comes along.
The second half of the album begins with the slow, quiet and almost trance inducing ‘Axxtrokk’. It takes on a similar life to earlier tracks with its repetitive nature burrowing deep into your brain and setting up camp. As the album draws to a close there is another turn to the darker side, until after the final report, the closing track ‘Cyclopean Utopia’ comes along. This distorted, discordant track is louder and more abrasive than anything that has come before. It is almost as if the machine whose story we have been following has finally broken free after being locked up. The closing seconds as the tune builds up seems to be the sound of the machine as it fades into the distance and brings this fine work to an end.
Although I’m not sure that upbeat is the right word to use, I definitely have a brighter outlook than “Dronolith”. Before that album, I hadn’t really explored much in the way of drone / ambient / instrumental music, but it really opened my eyes to a new world, and this one has once again found me looking for more music of a similar vein. A carefully constructed album that deserves your attention, such is the way that such minimal sounds can build such an expansive sound.