Grindlestone

Reviews


"tone"



"Tone is the second CD by cosmic, experimental ambient project Grindlestone that was formed in 1999 by American musicians Don Falcone and Douglas Erickson. We are familiar with these guys from bands like Spirits Burning, Spaceship Eyes and Thessalonians. The music of Grindlestone is created by manipulating music performances and found sounds generating a rather minimalistic, peaceful, experimental and other-worldly whole. This 53-minute-long CD has nine tracks that are all very ambient in nature. There is almost no beat and the music just floats onwards with its own cosmic flow. At times I'm reminded by for example Steven Wilson's Bass Communion but I guess they have been influenced for example by Fripp's and Eno's ambient works. The long track "The Fascination of Semantics" includes at first also some faint spoken word and I can also hear some guitar. Most of the very interesting sounds are made with manipulation, anyway, and the end result is very weird and special but also pleasant and soothing. This is just the kind of music that you feel like listening to when you want to close your eyes and detach yourself from reality and let your imagination fly. Some of the music on this album has been used on TV programs and there is a video of the opener "Our Floor with All Its Beliefs" on YouTube. Check this out!"

-- Dj Astro, Psychotropic Zone, (January 26, 2012)


"With steam-engine hisses and the begrudging grind and squeal of well-rusted gears, Grindlestone's Tone escorts listeners along a path of dark industrial ambient. Taking sound sources ranging from "normal" instruments to field recordings of construction equipment and an MRI, the duo of Douglas Erickson and Don Falcone churn their way noisily through spaces that are minimal in structure but abrasively textured. While Tone never quite reaches the level of brain-crushing density common to the usual dark ambient, it's definitely cloaked in thick shadows and makes a good run at alienating the listener. However, you're kept in place by pulses of rhythm, sighing drones washing through the background and enough space between elements to make you want to hear what else is going on in there and where you're going next. In "Pictures We Almost Take," a repeating five-note rise and fall acts an an anchor in a sea of pulsing electronics and scraping sounds before Erickson and Falcone briefly clean out the space with wavering synth tones - and then let those five notes whisper at you from under the flow. It's not gone, and it's still watching you. "Once There Was Only" is the smoothest track, a quite-ambient flow of pads that, coming later in the disc after you've been trained to wait for a harshness of sound, spools out a line of expectancy for you to follow. Sounds that lift above the droning wash make you jump just a bit - because that may be the moment where it all turns. And then, brilliantly, it just doesn't. This is where Tone finds its core: the rasp and snarl of the industrial tones in most tracks mix with drones and moments of phrasing to leave a distant emotional sense in their wake, and that sense can carry over as the disc moves forward. These two musicians know their way around sound manipulation; they've been at it, in various guises, for a number of years. Grindlestone is just one expression of their output. At times bordering on inaccessible but capable of suddenly turning up a moment that fully captures the listener, Tone will be better received by fans of abstract expression and grim soundscapes. But even if that's not your usual taste, I guarantee that if you take the time to listen to it once, it won't be the only time you listen. Give Tone a chance to take hold."

-- Hypnagogue, (November 17, 2011)



"Grindlestone is Spirits Burning mainman Don Falcone and Doug Erickson from Zesty Enterprise. OUR FLOOR WITH ALL ITS BELIEFS: Instant out-thereness!! Sincere deep weirdness with Falcone and friends. Experimental industrial space strangeness. PICTURES WE ALMOST TAKE: More loveliness. Don Falcone always releases very quality relevant music. I think experimental music should be conducive to achieving a high state of meditation and to multiple listens and this CD is!!! ELEVATOR MUSIC IN A SILENT HOTEL: Great title and more great music. Not sure what instruments are involved or who's playing what but it all sounds excellent; droney spacey. The fact that mainstream America and even most "alternative" musicians aren't even aware of this genre of music makes it all the more special. FRAGMENTS OF PAST SOUNDS: I run out of words to describe this music but this track is a continuation of the excellence... super intense (without being abrasive) spaceness. LAST DREAMS OF AIR: More, more, more... If you were up for an evening of inner psychedelic exploration this would be the CD for you! Just put it on a loop. ONCE THERE WAS ONLY: When I met Falcone in 1998 he seemed to be musically immersed in a Hawkwind influenced sound but I would have to say this CD is much more evolved and original than that. What I always loved about space rock was the pure essence and realness of musical deep spaceness, as opposed to copying the song structure and stylings of famous space rock bands! THE NICHE IT CARVES: Sounds like a train going into the mountain of madness or space spiritual blissness. Don also always gets a really good, clean sound on his CD's that makes repeated listens a must. THE FASCINATION OF SEMANTICS: And the beat goes on except without the beat, just space weirdness and beauty. The only thing that would make this better would be to have Sharon and Carlton's Book of Shadows adding their layer of space magic on it, are you listening Don? OF ENOUGH IMPORTANCE TO FEAR: Last track, I've run out of words to describe the authentic coolness of these recordings. For me most CD's let me know within 30 seconds why they are not relevant, usually because the music is obviously derivative. But like I've said, this CD passes the test."

-- Carlton Crutcher, Aural Innovations, #43, (October, 2011)



"Grindlestone is a collaborative project between Douglas Erickson and Don Falcone. You may recall the name Don Falcone from the old San Francisco Silent Records label, and his involvement in projects such as Thessalonians and Spice Barons, and his solo project, Spaceship Eyes. Don heads a space-rock collective called Spirits Burning which has been around about a decade and includes such luminaries as Gong's Daevid Allen and members of Hawkwind. Erickson has attended Robert Fripp's Guitarcraft workshops, performed with a couple of California Guitar circles, and also Spaceship Eyes and Spirits Burning.

The music on 'tone' is kind of an ambient-electronic soundscape punctuated with bits of noise and sequenced noise, LFO manipulations, etc.. There are 9 tracks but although there is space between them they seem to flow together into a complete work or soundscape. Not to say that there isn't variation from track-to-track (there most certainly is), but there is an unworldly similarity throughout. Actually, a good deal of 'tone' is downright spooky, eerie, and sounds as if it could have been made by ghosts. In spite of Doug Erickson's guitar background, I didn't hear anything that resembled normal guitar. (If he is playing any, it's been processed out of recognition, maybe Frippertronically so.) There is not much in the way of rhythmic elements, keeping the music in the cosmic ambient realm. I suppose you could consider much of it dark too, although dark ambient seems to imply a certain malevolence which is not present throughout. While not entirely minimal, much of the album is based on drone tones and dronish soundscapes but there are elements introduced throughout the various pieces that remove it from the realm of minimalism. Some of the ambiences could even be considered 'Enoesque'. While much of the album is placid to some degree (at least not violent) there are exceptions such as the rumbling eruption that begins 'The Niche It Carves' where it sounds like some huge spaceship has just invaded the galaxy as if it was piloted by Lustmord.

Interestingly enough, this album was mastered by Robert Rich, a name you should be very familiar with. Overall, 'tone' is great stuff for enthusiasts of cosmic and dark ambience, and beatless space music."

-- Steve Mecca, Chain D.L.K., (October 3, 2011) []



"The second Grindlestone CD is out as of June 2011, and it's not called "Two." The title is "Tone." As much as I liked "One," "Tone" completely blows it away. Not a bit of Fripp and Eno here (well, perhaps just a bit). This album is still Don Falcone and Douglas Erickson, but stylistically it's a world apart ... and above "One." This is really an album of what they used to call Musique Concrète, though I'm sure these guys use comuters and samplers to fold, spindle, stretch, pitch-shift, and otherwise mutilate their "found sounds" into this incredible atonal symphony of noise rather than the tape machines and splicing the original Musique Concrète composers used.

This album owes more to the likes of modern classical composers like Györgi Ligeti (famous among non-classical folks for the two spacey pieces used in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) or even more like Basil Kirchin's Worlds Within Worlds. The sounds are unearthly, yet nag at the back of your consciousness as being somehow familiar. These are obviously not synthesizer effects, but manipulations of recorded sounds. You can even occasionally make out a mangled guitar sound. The subtle sounds can best be appreciated using headphone or high-quality ear buds (not the pieces of crap they give you with your iPod). Mastered by Robert Rich, who clearly "gets it" as to what an like this is supposed to sound like. This album is completely major-league music. It has nothing to do with progressive rock (or with either word by itself) or even space rock. But it is completely spectacular and highly recommended! Who needs LSD? Be prepared to have your mind expanded!

So here's where the wiseguy critic gets to guess the name of the next album. Stone? Or maybe Throne? Hey, I just hope there is a third album. They can call it anything they want to."

-- Fred Trafton, GEPR Reviews, (June 28, 2011)



"Being newly introduced to this sort of sound by Grindlestone, I guess I would say it is sort of ambient-industrialish. All the different sounds are enticing and kept me wanting to hear more trying to figure out how the sounds were made. Echoes, storms, buzzings, distant voices, creepy stuff all coming together to make a beautiful album that could be a sound track to a movie I've never seen the whole way through, like Stigmata or Gothika or something similar. Very spooky! Had no problem listening to it during daytime driving but quickly turned it off and locked the doors while waiting for a friend at night. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed "Tone". Don't listen to this creepy shit alone."

--Victoria West, KFJC Reviews, (July 13, 2011)



"one"

" "One" is the instrumental project of California artists Doug Erickson and Don Falcone. Consisting of ambient textures with guitar soloing, one can find hints of industrial music with a canopy of loop based samples and self described avant garde approaches. While not always prevalent, their influences are Eno and Fripp, Robert Rich, Bass Communion and Tangerine Dream. Fans of guitar-leaning ambient and tribal experimental music may find this an interesting listen."

-- Mike V. Chain D.L.K. (July, 6, 2009)




"One is a very pleasant album to listen to, although occasionally the mood gets rather dark. The music is mainly quite minimal and cosmic. All in all, this is a very nice album that is perhaps best to put on if you want to relax and get some distance from the dull everyday life."

-- Dj Astro, Psychotropic Zone (January 15, 2009)




"If Fripp and Eno's two '70's albums No Pussyfooting and Evening Star had included Edgar Froese from the same time period (when he released Aqua, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale and Macula Transfer), then they would have sounded like One. Since these are among my favorite electronic albums of that day, and totally defined the "ambient music" genre (in my mind at least), it makes me really like Grindlestone. Actually, though One starts off this way, it also starts to incorporate some darker ambient elements partway through (they've compared this aspect to Robert Rich, which I must agree with), and these elements fit nicely into Grindlestone's sound.

Grindlestone began in 1999 with Don Falcone (Spirits Burning, etc.) getting together with guitarist (and Guitar Craft alum) Douglas Erickson. Unlike many of Falcone's other projects, this one doesn't have a dozen guest musicians, but is just these two as a duo. This seems to make the music quite a bit more focused and less chaotic than, say, Spirits Burning, which, to be frank, suits me just fine.

One is their debut release, and I love it. This is some of the best ambient music I've heard since the '70's by those very bands I just mentioned. For those of you who share my passion for this style, you'll need Grindlestone's One in your collection. I'm hoping for Two some day."

-- Fred Trafton , GEPR (December 12, 2008)




"Ambient electro, very chill and downtempo and sparse to be almost experimental, but a definite presence of electronica and beats, if swallowed. Very pretty and ambient. Local artists."

-- Your Imaginary Friend, KZSU Zookeeper Online (October 21, 2008) [full review]




"Utilizing guitars, bass, and a laundry list of synthesizers, samplers, effects and percussion, Don and Doug have created a space ambient/soundscape/sound exploration album that defies simple categorization. There are 13 tracks, and while they are consistent in their basic sound, there's something very different happening on nearly every track.

. . . This is definitely an album that begs multiple listens. Too much variety and so much happening in this music to absorb it all in a single listen. And that's a good thing."

-- Jerry Kranitz, Aural Innovations #40 (September 2008) [full review]




" . . . the two have created a musical entity something initially pointing to modern Tangerine Dream or a clever sci-fi soundtrack with the occasional nod to techno. However, the research and development thrust of the collaboration appears to be in maintaining a balance between digital pulse and background wash with a keen grasp on restrained manipulation. Erickson's reserved fret board approach is most apparent on pieces such as "Tombola Beano Ductile" and "River Tomato Magic" where his leads are more discernable and out front.

Other notable tracks include "Online Emergency Molasses" which relies on bright shiny shuddering shards of synthesizer implying mysterious exotic landscapes. In contrast, "Balsamic Fringe Decoy" shows Erickson's knack for a building a tense repeated arpeggio loop phrase while "Ethno Earth Commission" comes in more clearly like Brian Eno's more recent collaborations with a minimal rhythm accompaniment and sparse theme development.

Not to be pigeonholed, "Sister Tropic Pizza" travels down a more mundane audio path but is successful imparting a creepy pervasive mood. "Wodan's Malty Dragon" even comes off much in the vein of Richard Barbieri's recent textural endeavors. The fact that this disc is entitled One implies future work has already begun for the duo's next round of endeavors. "

-- Jeff Melton, Exposé Magazine, (October 2008)









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