Boomkat Product Review:
It’s hard to get a grip on all the projects Steven Hess is involved with at the moment. The talented percussionist has lent his able hand to Pan American, On, Locrian, Haptic and Dropp Ensemble, and that’s not even taking into account his solo work (check the jaw-droppingly good tape on Digitalis last year). 'Cleared' is the latest of his ventures, and here Hess comes accompanied by Chicago experimentalist Michael Vallera who lends a tape-hued corrosion to Hess’s unmistakable percussion. Vallera apparently contributes synthesizers and guitar, but it would be hard to make those sounds out under the blurry waves of salty sound. This is the sort of music you’d expect to hear piped from the subconscious mind of H.P. Lovecraft, all grimy, indistinct and laced with latent sexual tension. It is hard right now to add anything new to the so-called drone scene, but Cleared are fathoms deeper than the current crop of pseudo ambient non-releases. ‘Cleared’ is gritty and stunningly well-realized sound from two composers who know exactly what they’re doing and how to do it. A good comparison might be to Kevin Drumm’s flawless ‘Imperial Distortion’, but where Drumm moved into a zone of near meditative harmony, Cleared punctuate their sound with terror and dissonance. You might be thinking this is a noise record, but that would be way off base – when Cleared want to create terror they can do it at whichever volume they please, and here we are blessed with the kind of creaking horror that lives deep in the shadows, and is only heard if it really wants to be. An incredible record, and one of the best of the year so far.