Cyclic Law (14th Cycle), 2005
Lapse, the debut album by Cyclic Law founder Frederic Arbour’s Visions project, is pure, unabashed, unapologetic drone. It’s full of thick slabs of electronic tones, at varying pitches, melded together in waves that rise and fall like swells on a digital sea. Dark but strangely soothing, Lapse contains precious little besides its drones – there’s a dearth of percussion, static, vocal samples, buzzes, clicks, etc etc. There doesn’t appear to be any extraneous content such as field recordings either. Just a series of processed synth passes and washes.
Some might find it boring, to the point of being soporific. The tracks don’t really shift or evolve; in fact, one could argue that Lapse is one track broken by pauses of silence. The walls of noise emerge and dissolve, one after the other, with little care for structure or precision, and eventually it all fades out into nothing, until the next begins. Lapse doesn’t exactly loom ominously, nor drift peacefully, but neither is it neutral white noise; there’s enough layering going on to keep it from sinking into the background. And yet, it’s an oddly compelling listen; almost hypnotic, like sitting on the beach and watching the tide surge and recede, as time slips by and the planet turns.
Lapse works best when utilizing higher-pitched drones, which reduces the density. Examples are “Visions,” with its trumpet-like blaring, “Devoid of Shadows,” which is paradoxically very dark, and “Lightless,” which also belies its title by containing the most calming moments on the album. There’s plenty of darkness to be heard as well – the opening track “Abyssal Gaze” fits its title, with deep doom-laden bellowing serving as its base. It’s not often when one can listen to thirty-second samples of a dark ambient album and “get the big picture,” but Lapse is an exception. If you like the excerpts, you’ll find the album is practically identical.
This is a difficult album to expand upon due to its basic nature. Arbour doesn’t give the listener a theme or framework to fit his music into, but it doesn’t need one. Lapse doesn’t concern itself with being the soundtrack to a lost civilization, the sound of deep space, or an ode to arctic isolation. It is what it is, nothing more, and nothing less. While its minimal structure can be somewhat refreshing, the album’s relative lack of character and complexity can make for a challenging listen. however, for those who are attracted to the drone in its most stripped-down, pure, and singularly glorious state, look no further.