Ethernet ‘Opus 2’ – album review

Ethernet ‘Opus 2’ (Kranky)
Released 7th January 2013

Second full length from Ethernet AKA Tim Gray; Gray is a Master of Fine Arts having graduated from Mills College , California – his master thesis concerned the use of sound for control, healing and empowerment, he currently researches the applications of sound for meditation and healing.

As such, I kind of guessed this one wouldn’t be sounding like Motorhead!!

Developing on the trance-induction and brainwave entrainment techniques explored on the first Ethernet album ‘144 Pulsations Of Light’, ‘Opus 2’ moves into deeper, more introspective and emotive territory, the accompanying press release stated that “Opus 2 is intended to induce inner contemplation and internalized focus on the light within us. It is also a statement on the gradual darkening and inexorable decay of our modern world, and the need to look within to find true support and sustenance from one’s own energetic source”

The name Ethernet immediately conjurors thoughts of the internet, and this left me wondering; whilst we gorge upon noise and visuals delivered over the internet, does the net itself have a sound? If it does then Tim Gray has captured that sound and utilised it as the framework for this recording, at the core to each piece sits a slab of interwoven drones that ebb and flow – almost orchestral in a dark post apocalyptic Bladerunner manner; album opener ‘Monarch’ one of the shorter compositions at just under 8 minutes builds upon these foundations adding harmonic structure and rhythmic patterns that offer glimpses of light to shimmer through; this continues on in to ‘Correction’ which despite the Throbbing Gristle style title is a much more tranquil even ambient affair, though there remains a sense of dark foreboding.

The bulk of the recording took place during the darkest months of winter in the Pacific Northwest, between late-night shifts as Gray provided technical support for hospital operating rooms. The pieces on the album each formed gradually and spontaneously during extended improvised sonic meditations as part of the composer’s own trance work (or self-hypnosis) practice – Gray did this to step away from the traditional compositional structure of music, instead just allowing them to “happen”, to organically evolve.

‘Cubed Suns’ has at its core a frightening almost industrial throb, though this is low enough in the mix not to dominate, all the while layers of static coat the other elements – there is a feeling of fluidity, the soothing sounds are washing over you, its strangely ethereal, womb music for the bio-tech generation. ‘Dog Star’ offers a more rhythmic pattern, as the waves lap gently around, the sounds demand that the listener engages, utilising their own imagination transporting you towards distant shores, outer galaxies, the swirl of gasses – only your own thoughts will limit you.

The entire album focuses upon the relationship between the harmonic structure and the rhythmic half melodies, there is nothing jarring, but everything is unexpected; all the while Ethernet resolutely refuses to wander into song territory, the entire piece effectively avoiding any neat genre categorisation, the beauty of all this is that with each repeat listen, and dependent upon the listening environment ‘Opus 2’ offers up new undiscovered sonic rewards.


Track list:

1. Monarch
2. Correction
3. Cubed Suns
4. Dog Star
5. Dodecahedron
6. Pleroma

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


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