It’s almost impossible to Google “Hollowfonts” and come up with anything useful. All I get are a bunch of hits on actual hollow fonts, as helpful to me for writing this review as a hammer or an orange. I mean, have you seen this blog? What do you think, I’m gonna start typesetting the shit out of all my reviews? I’m barely html literate, and that’s a stretch. I’m a writer, not a visual artist. You can take your Tubular, your Bablyon5 (although, nice), or your Milford and cram ’em. I’m going to stick to good old Times New Roman, or whatever font WordPress ends up processing this to.
But who cares, right? Here at Quick Trips, we’re not hanging on to that type of everyday minutiae, because there are galaxies and ocean depths and vastnesses too weird to describe just waiting to be explored, son! And how better to accompany your imagination of those places than with the most tripped-out ambient drone you can get your hands on? That’s right, this is the best way – with headphones and Phinery. The nascent Danish label’s just unleashed their first batch of tapes ever (back in May, but are you really going to fault me for being late to it? I’m just one man!), and while all of them have some great, mind-altering avenues to adventure down, Hollowfonts’s XLVIII (that’s 48 for you non-Romans) is the cream cream of a creamy crop. (That came off a lot grosser than I intended.)
Hollowfonts is the ambient/drone/experimental project of Tampa’s Michael J. O’Neal, and while he’s on the absolute wrong coast (Jacksonville, represent!), he clearly knows what he’s doing behind his laptop. Or whatever he uses to cook up these wild and abstract soundscapes. And though wild and abstract they are, they do not lack for entry points. Are you an aspiring ambient/drone music listener, there, reader? Don’t know where to start? Have some reservations about “getting into it”? Well strap in – we’re gonna get you there.
I’m going to skip the first half of this album for a minute, because it’s the second half that grabbed me, and made me go back and re-immerse myself in XLVIII. While it’s true that opener “De Lancre Robe and Gavel” made me want to listen to the whole thing (it’s a good one!), it turns out that the 20-minute-long side B opener “Crude Spirals” is such an exhilarating ride that I couldn’t not pay attention to what O’Neal was getting at. “Crude Spirals” falsely opens with a bit of ambient noise before a heavily reverbed and pulsing beat sneaks in. It’s this beat that gets under your skin, like the city at night, and underpins the cloudy atmospherics that drift over it. Maybe think of a future world where androids go to clubs, and the most energy they can muster on the dance floor is a slo-mo technical drift.
But it doesn’t stay there, and that’s where the spirals get cruder, if you get my meaning. And if you don’t, I’ll explain – that nocturnal post-industrial drone fades at the halfway mark into a distorted subterranean nightmare. Indulge a bit further on the visual simile – it’s like O’Neal was playing with a Spirograph and all of a sudden shit got real. Gut-wrenchingly real. Ever read any Philip K. Dick? The music in the second half of “Crude Spirals” would be a good soundtrack to the inner workings of the child Manfred Steiner’s mind in Martian Time-Slip – pure gubbish.
If “Crude Spirals” is the ultimate trip for Hollowfonts, side A still brings O’Neal’s … A game. As mentioned earlier, “De Lancre Robe and Gavel” features chimes and thuds evoking further future dystopias, and would probably place well over visuals inspired by, you guessed it, Philip K. Dick. (Dude’s a genius.) “Half Mannequin” is Grand Statement Ambient Music, almost 8 minutes of stately minor-chord synth stimulus. And “Reeks of Char (in a Widow)” is as good a midpoint as you’ll get between “Crude Spirals” and “De Lancre Robe and Gavel” as it combines the harsh elements of both with a bit less foregrounded rhythm.
I don’t know if this whole murky drone thing is going to take off because MTV doesn’t really play music anymore, but if it does explode within the consciousness of mass popular culture, then Phinery and Hollowfonts are poised at the forefront. Sorry, that was dumb. But Phinery and Hollowfonts clearly have themselves together, and you should expect more exciting things in the future.
RIYL: Gaapiiiii, Karl Fousek, Sparkling Wide Pressure, Brain Fruit