Driving down Oregon’s roads, watching the endless shades of green and brown wisp by, it’s not difficult to catch glimpses of ramshackle farms, rusted lumbering machinery, and a multitude of other deserted buildings. Fragments of a bygone era, these objects and places possess a history unknown to most passive gazers. Economic stories can illustrate a gradient of reasons as to why factories, farms, dwellings, what have you, have been abandoned. But these tales don’t cut deep enough into their underlying humanity. These now dilapidated structures meant something to someone. Maybe they still do. A time capsule of memories for some; a decaying heap of detritus for everyone else. Derelict architecture pervades many cities, towns, areas where humans have established a life for themselves, their families. It is also the subject of the recent Fencepost and Screenslaver split, Dereliction.
Fencepost is one of many active field agents Graham Williams deploys under his noise/dark ambient/experimental banner Less Than One (“<1”). He composes Side A of Dereliction, offering two tracks. Screenslaver, a relatively fresh dark ambient/noise project from Edward Brunsden, takes Side B. His slice is five compositions in length. Together, these artists craft a soundtrack perfectly suited for exploring vacant decrepit locations by your lonesome. They take a peek at the history, the humanity that exists behind the frayed wallpaper of these places. Fencepost constructs the solitude; Screenslaver articulates the stories.
Through fourteen minutes of sound, Fencepost immerses listeners in utmost serenity. He encourages you to wander, become lost, in the natural quiet of our indifferent world. Surface noise crackles. It falls around you. Slow it gathers like particles of dust gently coating floorboards, sills, panes of glass. Glints of sun reflect off surfaces, warming the air. The compositions are so weightless, time seems to stand still. They assemble a dream, one you may wish to never depart. Anomalies crease the fringes of the atmosphere. A warble here, a shuffle there. Static crumbles. Pops, creaks, little bursts of electronic wind bellow. Flakes of shellac crack underfoot. All these nuances swirl in a tantalizing haze. The coruscating ambience that shimmers with such ethereal allure, it’s difficult to leave this place. “About a Minute of Something” passes from Screenslaver. Total silence drenches Dereliction. It’s on to Side B.
Screenslaver crafts absorbing narratives through harsh and at times jarring experimentation. He startles listeners from the delicate dream Fencepost concocted. “The Building Invasion Movement” describes – via snippets from a New York Times report – La Torre de David, the 45-story skyscraper in downtown Caracas, Venezuela. Unfinished since the early 90s – due to Venezuela’s banking crisis – it now houses thousands of squatters. A snarling ocean of static undulates beneath spoken words. Sentences detail the squalor of this vertical slum; the tide then crushes with merciless frequencies. Language is drowned. It’s unbelievably loud and abrasive, this shrieking white noise. It evokes a keen sense of dread and inflicts chilling pangs of shock as to express the horrendous poverty these humans endure. “When One Door Closes, Another Opens” is an experimental homage to Alexander Graham Bell’s infamous quote:*
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
It’s a sentiment many can relate to. And this quote’s pairing with Screenslaver’s soundscape forges a compelling cinematic piece. Footsteps approach an unopened door, one that looks back not forward. Faint gusts of wind rap against the wood on the other side. A heavy sigh emanates from someone. Anxious about the world and the terrors it holds, they ruminate a moment. They consider if they should revisit their old ways, a former self. They crack the door. Lashes of cold breeze strike their skin. Field recordings clang somewhere in the overwhelming cacophony. It’s almost unbearable, this resurgence of painful memories. Then it lapses. Quiet washes over the soundscape. Reverberations and static roll in a dizzying manner as a monotone buzz gouges out lower sound spectrums. It crumbles, evolving into a cold meditative trance. This past is no longer worth contemplating. They close the door; they move on. Forward.
Fencepost’s opulent dream is paralleled by Screenslaver’s final composition “Foreclose. Evict. Abandon.” It takes a comparable minimalist approach, though it is not inviting; it is ghostly and barren. The song encroaches upon your sanity and isolates you in the frigid confines of your darker thoughts. It strands you in rooms of derelict homes with no means of escape. Its howling gales only exacerbate your loneliness. You are confronted with the unfortunate realities that befell so many humans that lived in these abodes, which are now slowly being consumed by time. It is haunting. But it’s a reminder that some of these derelict places have a story to be understood. Immerse yourself in their solitude, listen to the silence, and embrace the insurmountable indifference.
* This quote is also widely attributed to Helen Keller.
You can pick up a digital copy of Dereliction on Screenslaver’s Bandcamp page or on Fencepost’s Less Than One Bandcamp page. The split is set at “name your price”, so you can grab a copy for free! Though I do suggest kicking these artists some dollars if you enjoy this release.
Fencepost does not seem to have a Facebook presence, but you can follow him on his Bandcamp page!