Grove of Whispers – The Wind From Nowhere

Buddhist on Fire (BOF-072), 2015

The Wind From Nowhere is a relentless release. Even during its quieter passages, there’s a formidable sense of power nesting within the music, overflowing with potential, like a V8 Dodge Charger imprisoned at a red light, engine straining against the bonds of its brakes. Grove of Whispers lulls you into a sense of peace with its name, but that’s soon blasted clean by the wall of force erupting from the speakers.

John Tocher has asked for no quarter. His titular wind is no soothing mysterious faerie breeze, but a howling maelstrom vomited forth from some unknown chaotic dimension. It’s immediately apparent that Tocher has been inspired by the bolder, brasher side of dark ambient, and projects like Terra Sancta in particular: the sonic concept here is all size and strength, with no melody or minimalism anywhere in sight. The Wind From Nowhere is a dark ambient sledgehammer, single-minded in its purpose and overwhelming in its scope.  We are in the middle of this titanic tornado, and all we can do is ride it out and hope the gods are merciful and spare us. For the entire hour, the assault comes in waves, pummeling us again and again, scarcely leaving us a chance to collect ourselves. This is an exhausting and heavy listen, aiming to drag you under and drown you in its synthetic undertow.

As you may have guessed, The Wind From Nowhere is rather unforgiving. The more weighty passages go on a bit too long; after the initial adjustment to its monstrous presence, I’m eventually left a bit numb. Terra Sancta’s Greg Good avoids this type of sensory overload and detachment with gradual changes and subtle variety that impart a strange organic feel to its looming aura; Grove of Whispers doesn’t carry the same level of grace. Tocher does vary his hurricane; it thins out in parts, perhaps recharging itself for the inevitable return, but these passages feel slightly artificial, and seem to arrive in predictable fashion. No storm, alien or otherwise, would behave this way.

There are also additional sampled details scattered here and there, as if cast carelessly about by the tempest. Strange chirping cries, as if from the throats of birds that have never flown in Earth’s air. Static-choked voices of a transmission snatched from the wind’s borders. Water, dripping from the tattered remnants of roofs. These ideas are good ones, intended to provide extra immersion, but the pieces repeat too often and remain too long. A bit more variety and a bit less reliance would have gone a long way to giving the album’s single lengthy track more momentum.

Tocher seems unsure if The Wind From Nowhere is longform ambient; it doesn’t seem quite committed to the expanded structure of that sub-genre, but it also doesn’t stray very far from its initial mammoth entrance. The looping content steals some of its power, and when power is so blatantly on display, it begins to leak impact. My initial impression of this album was of awe, of being in the midst of the fury of otherworldly elements, the thrill of standing in the storm’s eye but being untouched, but as the album progressed and the repetition began to set in, the thrill started to drain away. Grove of Whispers comes very close to reaching the same type of all-encompassing, brain-blasting, cathartic experience delivered by similar acts, but the wind blows itself out before a truly exhilarating peak is reached.


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