Aperus: Weather Anomalies
By John Shanahan, Hypnagogue Podcast
I was unpacking downloads for my podcast and giving some preview listens when "Weather Anomalies" from Aperus 100% stopped me in my tracks.
Brian McWilliams' environmental ambient work here hovers at the edge of minimalism but is thick with texture and sensation. It has the darkness and motion of endless shadows passing overhead, blended with a sense of weight--not aggressively crushing but decidedly loaded with sonic pressure, an undeniable presence.
To my ears, "Weather Anomalies" feels like a spiritual successor to Roach's "Early Man," both being able to do so much and dig so deep with seemingly (and deceptively so) little in play, and both possessing rich organic, primitive qualities.
I'm not often moved to write about music these days, but "Weather Anomalies" headed straight to my core and wrapped itself there, and I just had to catch it in words. Check out this stunning release and see how and where it hits you.
by Jeremy Bye ACL 2021 ~ Top Ten Drone
Drone music is rarely designed to be an easy listen, but this album is particularly unsettling: it's a document of solastalgia. Inspired by a fire that lasted 28 days in the mountains near his Santa Fe home, Weather Anomalies is Aperus' attempt to capture what was occurring around him. It's an environmental album, utilizing field recordings and radio transmissions alongside more traditional instrumentation to provide a musical response to the situation. Aperus isn't just responding to a month of living with the smell of mountain fire in the house, but the likelihood of this becoming the normal state of affairs. It's this very real aspect that makes Weather Anomalies equal parts compelling and terrifying.
by Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Following 'Archais Signal' (Vital Weekly 1256), there is another new release by Brian McWilliams' music project. The gap between that one and this one seems shorter than before. Maybe a sign that Covid-19 meant that staying at home is good for music production? Climatic changes inspired this new release, in time with the Glasgow climate summit, also this week. To that end, Aperus went back to his earliest field recordings, which dealt with weather recordings and used his array of analogue equipment to transform these recordings. This gear is "Soma Lyra-8, DSI OB6, Korg Trinity, Roland Juno 106, Software Sampler, Processed Guitar, Field Recordings, Shortwave Radio, Tapes, Loops, Effects". I understand that much of this was played in a few sessions, live in the studio. That is not how Aperus usually works, but the spontaneity works here very well. And maybe, so I mused, this doesn't differ that much from his previous, more wrought work, but the devil is in the details. This time around, none of the tracks are overly long or outstay thier welcome. The title track can carry the sixteen minutes storm passage with great ease and connects to the world of lo-fi sound makers. Throughout that element of lo-fi seems to return in the original field recordings and the treatments and the use of loops. That gives the music an even darker image than what Aperus usually does, I think. Maybe it is a connection to today's world, with climate change and weather becoming more extreme. More heat, more cold, more wind, and all of that with some heavier destructive forces in the future. There is also a piece such as 'Collective Memory', which is lighter and perhaps cast a bit of bright(er) light for the future. If only we were prepared to take care! As always, this release comes with postcards and fine print work, topping another damn fine release by Aperus. For all you zoviet*france and Fossil Aerosol Mining Project fans, this is certainly a name to watch. (FdW)
By Richard Allen, A Closer Listen
Last year at this time, we reviewed Aperus "Archaic Signal", an album informed by petroglyphs and the lost civilizations of New Mexico. Weather Anomalies is a worthy follow-up, offered with similarly generous packaging; a car's rusted hood graces the cover, while the packet includes a series of weather photographs.
When gazing upon these cloud formations, one might expect an album airy, light and dreamy, but this is not the case. The photos set up a strange dichotomy: the world as it is, and the world as we wish it could be. Spectacular shadows were created by 28 days of fire in the Santa Fe region: fires whose soot occurred the sun from west to east, affecting skies as far as New York. In an already apocalyptic year, Aperus (Brian McWilliams) was inspired to revisit old recordings and blend them with new. Karla K Williams contributes flute, Geoscience modular synth and Ivan Block guitar, deepening the textures as ash infiltrates clouds.
Precipitation is a constant presence, whether sheets of water or rumbles of thunder. The '=' signs on the cover are old weather symbols for rain. Helicopters crisscross the opening soundscape as a metallic pulse carries the tone from natural to mechanical. In the quarter-hour title track, looped notes wail a lament. The length of the track, paired with its dense, oppressive nature, suggests that what were once anomalies may now be perennial: no longer surprising, but expected. Fires rage; cities flood; locusts invade. In the 21st century we have grown desensitized to Biblical plagues.
In the wake of the foreboding "Up in Flames", McWilliams offers "Collective Memory", a more wistful piece whose theme hearkens back to Archaic Signal. Over the past two years, the very existence of collective memory has been challenged, as even recorded history (the pandemic of 1918) has been ignored. Perhaps the greatest repositories of collected memory are the Native Americans, the first and among the least appreciated of all North American cultures. As Chief Seattle once wrote, "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves". Could there be any greater evidence than our current glut of weather anomalies? As once we looked at the clouds and saw shapes, now we see skies so polluted that they take on a uniform hue, not a shape but a shroud. One day we may look at McWilliams' photos with longing, remembering the blue above as it fades from our collective memory. Is a turnaround "Mirage or Vision?" The album lands on an open-ended question, suggesting there is still time, but not much. (Richard Allen)
by Peter Thelen, Expose
The first few minutes of the opener "Echoes of Thunderbirds" remind me of one cold, wet night I spent under a bridge during a storm, with large trucks and cars driving over the top, shaking the structure. Yes, I was on a long hitch-hiking trip, and was deposited in some godforsaken place along the highway, and had no other place to take shelter, and so there I waited the storm out until morning when clear skies returned. Well over a year in the making, inspired by the chaos and fires around his home base of Santa Fe, New Mexico in the summer of 2020, Aperus "Weather Anomalies" finds ambient composer Brian McWilliams combining found sounds and field recordings made over a number of years with ambient and experimental electronics, looped, agitated, and raw, often in a dark, challenging and chaotic way, and at other times comforting and releasing, using analog synth gear, often with guitar pedals to achieve the rough edged lo-fi sounds we hear on these nine tracks. The longest track is the title cut that's roughly the length of an album side, and certainly covers a lot of territory as an ongoing amorphous sound sculpture; it's one of those pieces you'll want to repeat a few times before getting on with the others. For something shorter in duration, there is "Up in Flames" that conveys a world of mad chaos over its three-minute duration, yet remains gentle on the nerves; some voice samples in the background as the piece fades adds to its overall mystery, joining it to the next piece - "Collective Memory" - which pushes the sound back into more colorful territory. On several of the tracks, McWilliams has guest musicians contributing flutes, guitars and additional synths, track depending, although fused with the field recordings and extensive studio processing, it's hard to know exactly what you are listening to at any given point in time, nor would one really want to know, as it's better just to accept these sonic sculptures at face value without overanalyzing them. Wonderful and immersive, just lie back and enjoy what you are absorbing.
by Willie Garvin, Bandcamp
Just like that, Brian reaches new heights in his artistic development. This is deeply considered, thoughtful drone, thematically relevant and powerfully consistent. As a bonus the hand crafted, bespoke CD packaging is both a thing of beauty, and another example of the passion he brings to this work. This, and his back catalogue are well worth exploring, if ambient/drone is your thing (and if it's not, it should be!)