Stefanus Strom is a German recording artist and self-proclaimed GY!BE theoretician, but he doesn’t really need to announce the latter. Just listen to the debut album This is iii!: a grainy collage of street preachers, military obituaries and other eerie found sounds, closing with a hauntingly sad piano piece. It’s music for end times. Frightening, claustrophobic, hopeless, hopeful, and always clinging to the belief that there is still wonder in the world. All very much in the tradition of Montréal’s Godspeed.
Presence Loop takes the concept even further. This second album plays less fractured, more focussed, but above all, even darker. Where iii! is a scorched archipelago of soon-to-be-ruins, Presence Loop takes form as a monolithic wasteland.
Xenophobia in its many forms seems to be a recurring theme, and so are bigotry and war crimes. They aren’t overtly condemned. Here’s the really scary part of the record. The field recordings portray them in a deadpan, as-is manner. There is evil here, and it oozes through the mundaneness of the recorded topics, as addressed in a heart-wrenching way by the closing track’s protagonist.
With more ambient drones to string the field recordings together, it’s tempting to call this record more ‘musical’ than its predecessor. Indeed, opening track “Algier Radiowaves (On Tape But Off The Reel)” quickly develops into a distorted drone that rivals GY!BE‘s Divorce and Fever in sheer ominous beauty. “Tribulation”, “Fog Density Lifted” and “Come Heal Their Income” are also surprisingly easy on the ear – in a dark ambient sense.
At its core, however, I don’t think this record is about tonality or timbre. By the time the closer “…And I Fear For It” comes up, Presence Loop has etched its fierce impression using slow burning uneasiness and a hint of thee mystery&wonder.
Released October 2, 2010.
Visit Stefanus Strom for liner notes and the bonus track.