A fact that should have been remedied long ago, Brooklyn-based artist Billy Gomberg has finally issued his debut vinyl album, a highly limited artifact with an edition of only 108. "False Heat" is perhaps his most minimalist and streamlined album yet, occupying two side-long expanses of sizzling currents of electricity, sine waves on the edge of human hearing, and textures that gleam and spin, in turn harmonizing and beating against one another. The two tracks do diverge from each other in memorable ways – the first is derived from static and hiss in a thicket of signal and noise, the second dips deeper into low end with plunging bass currents – but "False Heat" itself has the kind of surrealistic intent that pins an album into your imagination and isn't easy to let go. Real, illusory, and musical all at once, "False Heat" is like the soundtrack to a land not yet discovered.
Jim Haynes, The Wire:
Brooklyn sound artist Billy Gomberg operates in the fertile grounds between electroacoustic improvisation and roughly composed minimalism, finding himself in the same camp as Jason Kahn and Machinefabriek. Both of the side-long pieces of False Heat slowly rise and fall in singular arcs, albeit through distinctly different means. An exhausted drone flutters at the edge of perception of the first untitled track with deadened oscillations, grey pulse tones and an oceanic thrum caught in a loose gravitational orbit. The untitled B side increases the density and the volume, forgoing the electrified hauntings of the former track in favour of a billowing impressionism. Here, Gomberg pulls back the curtain on his instrumentation for guitar and synth, allowing them to develop in a wistful travelogue fraught with melancholy and swollen emotion.
Brian Olewnick, Just Outside:
Gomberg's music, to the extent I've encountered it, has always been overtly engaging, almost too much so, like an irresistible candy that you initially chide yourself for enjoying its excess sweetness but, dammit, it's good and you eventually come to realize the faint bitter strains that give it its power. In that sense, he often reminds me of Fennesz in his prime. "False Heat" is no exception. Released on LP (I heard a digitized version), we have two sides of Gomberg's electronics. Side A, which I think is a real-time improvisation, opens with a hyper-low tone, splaying into several layers of varying pitches, textures and wobbliness, all in an interwoven, multi-thread drone. At heart, the elements are not uncommon at all but the placement is very fine, the choices made just right. I've been (for the umpteenth time) looking at Eggleston a great deal recently and the "normalcy" of his photos--not normal at all--seem to have some resonance with this music. Talk about sweet, Side B's opening drone is chocolate salt water taffy. It unspools slowly, the piece taking on a hazier character than the first, with some welcome sour tones slicing through the molasses. Much of the second half of the work is infused with sounds very reminiscent of throat singing--visions of David Hyke's Harmonic Choir thrust themselves to the foreground but, sweet as this music is, it has none of the saccharine quality of that ilk. A sensuous bath, well worth the subsequent trip to the dentist.
The opening moments of False Heat are deep – the kind of bass that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. A single held note that slowly evolves as if moving through fog. Although this album is made up of two side-long tracks, each of these seem to be broken up into distinct movements.
Around 9 minutes into False Heat Pt 1 more notes appear from the background hiss reminiscent of a time stretched fog horn before slowly, ever so slowly falling backwards forever into the mist. the entirety is a static cloud held aloft by its one note foundation.
False Heat Pt 2 is, by comparison full to the brim. It has chords and distortion and even hints at melody in its first few minutes. But it’s around 6 minutes in when the deep notes return that the beauty really arrives and everything else suddenly seems so fragile. By 10 minutes things are starting to crumble around me as the distortion gradually builds ushering in yet more bass – I don’t know where he gets it from, but he has a lot of it. This slow, timeless build does eventually, sadly come to an end. At which point I go back to the start.
Billy Gomberg was I have to say, a name I had not heard before, but it’s a name I fully intend to find out more about as this album is by far the best dark ambient/drone/call-it-what-you-will album I have heard in a long time.
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ideas: an acoustic guitar and vocalist, a verse-chorus-verse pop song — this isn't to say that incredibly complex concept albums, highly technical death metal, prog rock, mad-scientist modular synths or heady experimental albums are not good ideas. Often they are, and I usually enjoy listening to them. And this isn't to say that there isn't some painfully bad and contrived folk and pop music out there, because there is.
"Simple" is often synonymous with "boring" or "bad" when it comes to music, and while I completely agree that this can be true in a lot of cases, there are bands, albums and artists that are simple and are far from boring or bad. But simple idea, song or album certainly does not occur at the expense of practice and mastery, and this is an important distinction to make, and it is certainly a distinction evinced by Billy Gomberg's "False Heat."
The two tracks on "False Heat" are side-long improvisations utilizing synthesizers, "a temporarily empty room with a guitar amplifer, and open window and no live computer treatment." The idea is so simple and the results are impossible beautiful. Side one begins with some barely audible, but very heavy, bass frequencies, room noise and analog hiss. Gomberg's synths gradually climb into higher registers, slowly shifting like the sun moving across the empty room they occupied.
Side two has a bit more motion, with shuddering tones dropping amidst Gomberg's glass-like bed of sustained, though subtly changing, notes. While very minimal and slow-moving, Gomberg is adept at introducing new notes and textures, making these tracks quite engaging and dynamic; he's equally skilled at taking them away. To passersby, "False Heat" may indeed sound boring and one-dimensional, but it takes real skill and patience to create sound that is this minimal and restrained on one hand and dynamic and interesting on the other.
I am unfamiliar with Gomberg's previous work, but the patience and restraint on display here indicate his mastery of his craft. "False Heat" may be a simple idea, but the results for the listener are incredibly complex, and in lesser hands, such an idea would indeed be boring and bad. An incredibly rewarding and beautiful record. Highly recommended.