Dark ambient, drone, and noise music are forms which can have a tendency towards a sort of blurring around the edges, where the listener easily loses focus if not intently listening. While this can be a problem, it can also be a fascinating experience when an album becomes a backing track to one’s daily wanderings. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time exploring my city via public transit with Ryan Huber’s Four Pi playing in my headphones and found it to be an interesting sonic parallel to much of the social disconnect one finds when walking through a bustling downtown area.
Unsettling yet not wholly alarming drones crackle throughout Four Pi, with varying degrees of intensity from song to song. On tracks like “Cassara” and “Quirin,” there’s a humming subtlety that feels as though it’s suspended just above a moment of tension. You can wait as long as you’d like for it to give way into some sort of darker or harsher territory, but when it ends by trailing off rather than by breaking or resolving, it’s easy to see that the lack of follow-through leaves a greater void than it would’ve had the threat been acted upon. It’s this sort of roughness and difficulty that makes this album such a startlingly appropriate listen when walking past strangers whose gaze never quite meets your own. On busy city streets, it’s easier to feel anonymous and isolated than when coming across another lone traveler on a deserted path, and these songs conjure that chaotic, smothering tension and anxiety.
It’s not to say that every song is just rife with festering unease, but there’s a delicate and impressive balance of both cringe-inducing tones and shimmering beauty at most points in this release. A personal highlight is the crisp, rolling “Lewisite,” with its clipped percussion and occasional introductions of rhythm serving as a slight deviation in the middle of the album. It’s still a relatively dark composition, but it’s got a foreboding you can nod along with. The only real release comes at the end, with “Process” clicking away gently with warm, inviting sounds that seem to be a balm for the sensations of heavy focus and disconnection that much of the album contains. Is this meant to be a resolution for the entirety of this release? I can’t say, but it feels like one without straying too far from the actual content of the rest of Four Pi. Ryan Huber may not be a huge name in drone and experimental music yet, but with this engaging release only a few months behind us and two other items already up on his bandcamp, it’s likely that you’ll see his name on Black Metal & Brews again.