Cestine – Level (Twice Removed Records, 2014)


Many of the albums that I think are special, or at the very least more emotionally potent, are those that seem to tackle ideas and feelings in a very humanistic way, in which there seems to be a logical arc across their breadth that we get to witness unfold and almost become a part of as we empathetically engage with the album. That must be why I think that the mysterious Cestine’s latest LP, Level, is such a delicious listening experience then, because through its distal guitar drone and cassette fuzz we get to be a part of its fluxing emotional state, migrating from soft highs to critically climaxing alternations.

Level begins with a beautiful and carefree sigh in the cosy and daydreaming tracts of fluffy “Relief”, sending pulses of gentle synth drone to our ears from out of its contented and cosy space. A slight breeze ruffles the microphone and an airplane passes distantly overhead, all of these little moments becoming folded within the track’s delicious minimalism, lost in an unburdened haze of repetitive and delicate synth turnings. This sudden weightlessness affords “Crest” a new-found density and power that wasn’t previously possible, the beginning of the incline back to our previous levels of confidence and happiness that we have once again unlocked. Slowly and tentatively it unwinds itself, the soft drone lines growing tidally with each passing wave and probing the shores of our mind, making sure they’re able to return, supplemented with shimmering lines cutting through the haze to beam little flurries of quiet optimism through an otherwise downtrodden mix.

The real power piece of the album lies in its centre, though, with the 17 minute leviathan of “Grade”; after the hesitant growth of “Crest”, “Grade” is a rather more fierce and rapid ascent, breaking out thick but (initially) distal walls of growling guitar drone to abrade down the dense obfuscation of reverb and cassette haze. It grows into a turbulent and noisy mush of overlapping, eviscerating texture that is both deeply cathartic and surprisingly suppressed; a delicate balancing act that keeps the enthusiastic and empowered guitar lines and noise in check, making sure it doesn’t get away from itself and take things too far. It slowly crumbles into a sketchy and haunting silence, the previous chaos nothing more than echoes as it settles into place.

Title track “Level” lets us know that everything is back to normal in its brief interlude, weaving a warm and cosy web of soothing drone and circulating ambient textures with no abnormalities, no crescendos and no piquing processed guitar to disturb the flow. And here we wait, with closer “Patiently” rounding out the album on a rather haunting note. The piece rotates around a point now, spinning in a slow and endless oblivion with no perceivable way out, no way to break the spell. Rain splashes endlessly in the background and a woman talks little fragmented nothings over it, idle chatter and ambient noise padding out the backfield but existing in a state of mindlessness and general uncaring, before something takes us away at the abrupt end, snapping us out of our circular dreamings and terminating the album.

The quiet yearning of this release and it’s slow, delicate emotional arc really appeal to me; yes there is some mild sense of repetition and continuing, possibly overdone, reinforcement of its central themes because of that, but I think this really is a wonderfully well put together little Drone/Ambient release that possibly not too many people are going to have the opportunity to run across, and I would definitely say that this is an album worth checking out to allow yourself to wallow in its tracts of airy, tentative guitar drones.

Level is due out on November 1st, but you can listen to “Relief” on Soundcloud here.