Drew McDowall
A Thread, Silvered and Trembling
Dais Records

In discussing Drew McDowall’s approach to synthesis and composition, either in his own solo work or as an elemental part of the broader Coil discography, it’s tempting to default to superlatives and psychedelic verbiage simply to communicate a sense of surreal extremity, or of sonic experimentation purely for its own sake. And sure, that sense of someone who’s built a legacy on records which brush against the limits of reality, however we’d define it, from Love’s Secret Domain right through 2020’s Agalma remains part of the thrill of checking out a new McDowall record. But such a focus is at risk of pushing the thought and care lent to the timing and arrangement of McDowall’s work, and even worse, occludes the quiet sense of grace and beauty which imbues his new record A Thread, Silvered and Trembling.

A good portion of the sounds on A Thread will be familiar to those who’ve been keeping abreast of McDowall’s recent work, though an increased focus on acoustic strings can be found throughout its four pieces. Partially via their subtlety, partially via McDowall’s longstanding analogue wizardry, that more traditional instrumentation blends in almost immediately with the smeared ambience and pinging glitches and flourishes of the record. And while on previous McDowall records it might have been the timbral and textural contrasts between those sounds which acted as the record’s combustion, on A Thread the languid but meditative sense of peace and curiosity brings its elements together.
The iciness of the strings and warmth of the drones wedded together in “A Dream Of A Cartographic Membrane Dissolves” work their way into the listener more by virtue of their processional, almost sacred pace. Elsewhere, a warm, syrupy calm seems to descend from the brain down through the body via the drones of “Out Of Strength Comes Sweetness”, while lightly stroked strings and synthetic approximations thereof send shivers down the back.

The biblical story which gives “Out Of Strength Comes Sweetness” is one of the most perplexing in the Old Testament; its imagery is evocative (and oddly familiar to generations of UK grocery shoppers), yet resists any simplistic interpretation or reductive moralization. It haunts and beguiles without facile solution, as any true myth should. In a similar fashion, A Thread soothes the spirit, invigorates the mind, and offers harmony without resolution.

Buy it.