Northern Transmissions reviews 'Conquistador' by Dylan Carlson

Sargent House


Dylan Carlson


Drone music is often a niche that seems inaccessible outside of the world of scoring, but Dylan Carlson tries to make something really new on his new solo piece. With songs that range from explorations of single riffs to setting-driven songs, Carlson redefines the power of the guitar. Though the album will feel monotonous for many, the patient will find something really invigorating in this record.

As a sparse piece of guitar music, “Conquistador” gets things going on a moody rumble of feedback, cool melodies and a ton of atmosphere. This said, it really meditates on its one riff for incredibly long before it finally decides to start building on it, which will prove a lot for most people. As its background energy starts to swell behind it there’s a growing sense of tension that makes the song more and more menacing. Though it eventually hits an epic finale, it really drags things out at times to get there.

A little bit of John Carpenter’s “Pork Chop Express” starts to take over on the thematic riffs of “When The Horses Were Shorn Of Their Hooves.” This tighter writing and more direct melody makes the song a more fun listen than the stretched energy of “Conquistador” while providing something instantly memorable. As the haze of sound surrounds the track the whole mood builds into something a lot more huge. This said Carlson’s heavy repetition will certainly be a make or break with many listeners.

The horror-like sparse noise-work of “And Then The Crowd Descended” is oddly one of the most intriguing listens of the whole record. The insect-like percussion is dirty and gross, creating a sense of atmosphere you feel as if you can touch. The little metallic rings and touches of strings are exotic yet terrifying and leave you with unease on every little shriek. Though it’s startlingly short, this is a real mood-piece in comparison to other songs here.

“Scorpions In Their Mouths” growls a lot more viciously than other guitar hooks of the album and finds Carlson slowly twisting his melodies as the song moves. This sense of exploration makes the song feel more diverse and palatable, and allows its extended run to not only feel justified but interesting. As the background energy starts to infect the guitar tone itself, one wonders where Carlson may expand the track next. Although it doesn’t stray too far overall in the scheme of things, this kind of more experimental sonic melding is a fun trip on the record.

The deepest sense of place shines through on “Reaching The Gulf” as dripping tones and waves crash behind the guitars. This more emotional side to the guitar also makes it feel much more organic and less like some sort of repeating hook. By extending the possibilities of both the sounds and melodies here, Carlson closes out the record with a deeper sense of musical understanding and possibility, while also creating something rare in instrumental music.

Words by Owen Maxwell