Past Inside The Present is pleased to announce Repetition Hymns, a double album from the enigmatic Black Swan. Comprised of 19 vignettes, the relatively short tracks impart a strong forward momentum despite the 80-minute runtime. Repetition Hymns is thus particularly well-suited to the temporal distortion of quarantine, in which each day feels like an endless repeating loop. Our bleeding hearts are in need of drone like never before.
In the decade since the release of In 8 Movements, Black Swan’s 2010 debut, the anonymous producer has built a reputation for his unique brand of tape-based symphonic drones. While the author behind the moniker remains hidden, Black Swan is still able to surprise and captivate. The dark symphonic deconstructions of those early works have slowly evolved, making space for lighter textures and tranquil meditations on sound, expanding the palette of tones while staying true to an identity in flux.
A common complaint made of drone music is that it is too unchanging, but repetition is also a form of change. So much of contemporary pop music relies on strophic forms built upon inhumanely perfect MIDI loops, repeating the same song structures and melodies. Black Swan gravitates instead towards the imperfections of tape loops, not as a nostalgic fetish but a source of artistic experimentation.
Repetition Hymns is composed of layers of handmade tape loops of varying lengths and pitches manipulated on multiple multi-track recorders. There is a raw quality to this method that conveys a looseness, and a freedom, unlike any of Black Swan’s prior work. The repetition of a loop alters its perception, drawing attention to subtle textural modulation and events resulting from interaction with other loops, before moving onto the next micro-composition. The short track times discourage stasis while allowing for larger scales of interplay throughout the album as a whole. Versions echo throughout, creating cycles within cycles, as reprised motifs disorient the listener’s sense of time.
Sweeping sustained string crescendos can’t help but evoke cinematic metaphors, but any sense of narrative remains abstract. Like a sonic equivalent of the blurred and streaked canvases of Gerhardt Richter’s abstract paintings, Black Swan’s music isolates fine detail to be drawn out over time. Slowness becomes an act of resistance, obliging the listener to live fully in the present. Music is especially well-suited to exploring the malleability of time, and Repetition Hymns is slow music for slow times.