Still Connecting is a work of extremes – be they chaotic and unsettling or stilled and meditative. All of which is to be expected from Deej Dhariwal, who, along with his band Thought Forms, has already released excellent work this year in the form of the superbly varied record Ghost Mountain. With Still Connecting, Deej Dhariwal has managed to craft something a little more his own, eschewing traditional dynamics for lengthy forays into sound and experimentation.
From the opening track “New Dawn” you get the feeling that this is going to be an album that is unlikely to take prisoners. Crushing overdrive, wailing guitar and lost, tortured howls welcome the listener to an unforgivingly hellish soundscape. It’s maddening and brutal and really quite good, and reminded me of the kind of music that accompanied David Bowman through the stargate in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Still, as this preamble suggests, it’s not exactly for the faint of heart.
Dhariwal mercifully slows things down with the ambient epic “Kaide.” The slow build-up of tension, subtle arrangement and attention to both texture and layering can’t help but recall the mastery of pioneer Brian Eno. It’s the kind of piece that tells its own story, and seems fitted better to the emptiness of space or the expanse of a desert than to the confines of one’s bedroom.
The following two tracks seem to follow this pattern of heavy and light. I’m oversimplifying here, but there really is no other way to compare the bizarre onslaught of “Carborator” with the tranquillity of “Empty.” Unfortunately I did not care much for the former, which seems to be more of an exercise in sound mechanics than in design. “Empty,” on the other hand, is a real delight – a minimalist meditation that’s built around one divine little riff and a careful use of delay and overdubbing.
The best is saved until last however with the summative “Dunking.” An appropriate close to proceedings, this last journey into the unknown is a stirring work of progressive, guitar-led music, and its ghostly dynamics combined with droning, picked guitar make for an appropriately haunting ending to a truly remarkable solo effort on the part of Deej Dhariwal.