Alan Gesso–Music Television

Brooklyn drone artist releases new album through Baltimore-based label.

Henry Strand

Contributing Writer

strandh1@umbc.edu

Alan Gesso treats silence like a blank canvas for his abstractions of sound, and his latest album is free to download.

Hailing from Brooklyn, Alan Gesso is one of the last of a dying breed of contemporary artists to insist on releasing cassette tapes in the midst of America’s recent vinyl craze and an age of limitless digital streaming.

Logically speaking, they are more accessible than records, less obsolete than CD’s and oftentimes the cheapest physical listening platform. Even if you don’t have a tape deck in your car, in this case, it’s worth the $3 Bandcamp asking price.

On the site, Gesso’s tapes are listed under the tags “experimental,” “ambient,” “drone” and “industrial.” In the interest of managing expectations, the first three are all overlapping, equally suitable categories, but the last is something of a stretch considering the largely non-abrasive nature of his work.

That being said, both comprehension and enjoyment of “drone” require meticulous attention to detail, especially when they as nuanced as they are in Allan Gesso’s experiments. Over time, his dreamscapes have become increasingly ominous and complex while maintaining a distinctly individualistic style of synth craft.

Gesso’s 2011 debut tape Identity was the softest and least memorable of his endeavors, while the 2013 release Oscilence featured much eerier and more challenging sounds. He seemed to hit his stride with Body Melt Records, split with Allston collaborator Genuine Fractals. The album entitled Ivory Tower is the most darkly beautiful and straightforward of his efforts.

On Nov. 3, Gesso broke his own rule and digitally released Music Television through Player Press, a prolific Baltimore label. The album shares its title with its two tracks, each clocking in at exactly the same length: sixteen minutes and one second.

Gesso often incorporates subtle noise influences into his art with the creaking and slamming of doors, maniacal laughter, cavernous drips, rushing gusts of wind and other sparse effects often missed by semi-attentive listeners, but there’s an absence of this technique on the latest album.

The first four minutes capture attention by using overtones to evoke the piercing resonance of metallic vibrations. Although there are some new developments, such as the distorted xylophone riff, the experimentation with strings, the beat-keeping mineral strike of a pickaxe and even further complicated arrangements. The latter half makes use of silence and sameness as craftily and essentially as hydrogen oxide is used in watercolor.

While it is oftentimes audibly indistinguishable from its predecessors, Music Television is similarly masterful. Gesso seems to be returning to his dreamier drone roots. The only noticeable flaw is Gesso’s inability or unwillingness to transition between musical segments, which could make the overall listening experience more seamless than it already is.