Deep, dark and delicious, Michael Meara's Nocturnal Panorama is a 47-minute excursion that demands you take the trip in headphones. Three mid-length drone pieces work to describe "Mars and other cosmic entities" and in doing so, take us on a bit of a trip inside ourselves as well.
Perhaps it's not fully accurate to call it "drone," although much of the disc certainly dwells close to the border. The opener, "Chryse Planitia," builds from the sharp pluck of bass strings and their resultant resonance, along with what sounds to my ears like volume-modulated guitar chords. So it's more dynamic, in that sense, than its two companion pieces. Meara lets the resonant sounds stretch out into the backdrop, and the solid, sudden plucks hit the mark as perfect punctuation.
The other two tracks delve more firmly into drone territory. The anchoring sounds are gone; there is just the drift through shadowy spaces. But even at that, Meara's sounds are more in the ambient vein than they are true drone. Unlike drone, where time is extremely stretched, and the music equally so to the point of apparent near-stasis, these pieces have more of the slow but noticeable movement of ambient, the grace of breath.
As the label notes, these are guided tours through certain landscapes. As such, they possess a stronger dynamic aspect, an aural descriptiveness that comes through quite clearly. "Cepheid Variable" brings in a vocal pad, low male voices that offer a sense of some grimly sacred chant. It continues and completes the movement toward--but again never quite fully crossing into--drone. It's the recognizable, metaphorically physical aspects tucked into the music that keep it just to the ambient side of true drone. Where we tend to respond to drone on a more subconscious level, this music keeps us below the surface but within reaching distance. It is a place between, and this is exactly where Nocturnal Panorama needs to be. It is where it truly succeeds.
This is a very deep voyage that needs to be taken often.