As a project, Line Gate has been undergoing a slow, steady transformation, much like the longform drone works that have come to characterise it. What began as a band in 2010 and most recently surfaced as a solitary hurdy-gurdy resonance on 'Den' in 2017 has now flourished into ‘Apex’, Michal Vaľko’s latest album. 'Apex', simultaneously an album about perceiving the beauty around us, about sacredness, and a meditation on a state of timelessness and seeming non-action, is divided into two 30-minute pieces.
The gently modulating drone of the hurdy-gurdy remains present during the first piece, along with its very characteristic (almost psychedelic) resonances and overtones. However, the listener's ear is almost immediately drawn to another sound source - the human voice. 'Apex I' presents an interplay between these two instruments, which, strangely enough, are positioned in a similar space on the frequency spectrum. The result is a mind-bending interplay between the hurdy-gurdy and the voice; one weaving around the other in seemingly indeterminable patterns.
'Apex II' takes Vaľko’s explorations of the human voice even further: the hurdy-gurdy is withdrawn. Layers of voice, some processed, some raw, are the only building block here. A resonant layer of sampled voice, not dissimilar from the hurdy-gurdy, acts as an unstable, shifting sonic bed around which a gradually growing choir of voices orbits endlessly. Sibilants, consonants and vowels recited in mantra-like cycles form a non-linguistic vocal tapestry, one without explicit meaning, but imbued with huge emotional gravity and a unique enchanting quality.
The moments of stillness and space are just as emotive as the gorgeous instrumentation. This is a genuinely breathtaking listen and one of my favorites in 2020. Especially on headphones the sounds slowly reveal themselves, building into an enveloping and inviting world. Mesmerizing! Jeff Haight