Formed by Wisconsin based musician and sound artist Matt Anderson, Colonial Skyway is an Ambient Drone project. Released on September 13, 2020, the newest Colonial Skyway effort, Landline, conveys much sonic depth in each track while bearing figments of contemplative themes that remain consistent on this listening adventure.
Devoid of any showmanship, rhythm, or meter, the entire album is driven by texture and imaginative use of tonality within the structure of each drone. Different moods and emotions can be experienced upon each listen; pensiveness, tension, apprehension, and awe, to name a few. Musically, I can hear elements and influences from Brian Eno and Rick Wright (Pink Floyd) without directly copying the sound and style of either.
“Data Over Iowa” opens Landline on a somber, moody note. A bed of grainy, crackly noise serves as the backdrop under a tapestry of subdued synths – cool in timbre, bearing reminiscence of a comet slowly making its way across the sky on a dark, misty night. The hypnotic “Overnight” very much stood out to me upon first listen. Impressions of a long freight train traveling through a cornfield on a rainy night came to mind. Things darken up quite a bit on “Could be Down” with its non-tonal, mechanical, futuristic swirl of drones that swell throughout the track. It conjures up vivid images of being lost in a basement of a large factory along with nightmarish notions of unidentified flying objects appearing out of nowhere. As we proceed to the second half of the album,“Calling Merrytown” continues down the same dark path as its predecessor. This time, however, it's built on a series of warmer saw waves – augmented in tonality and a bit more piercing in its timbre – that I found to be eerie in an astonishingly good way. I would personally suggest this track for a scene in a Sci-Fi Thriller or Supernatural Horror film. The next track, “Subdivision” is a departure from the gloomy nature of the previous few tracks. Nonetheless, it provokes thought and evokes wonder. With its incorporation of a lush minor/modal key tonal framework, it can have listeners longing to stare at a sunset or marvel a scenic drive along the lake. The album brightens up a bit as it concludes with the stellar track “Town and Country”. Although it doesn’t quite give off the vibe of a “happy ending”, it certainly reinforces a peaceful sensation of closure. A guitar-like drone swells in and out, putting greater emphasis on variance of dynamics than any of the previous tracks on the album do. Subtle, percussive cosmic sounding fragments enter in and out on occasion, giving the impression of birds flying over one’s head while walking alone on a sunny day.
Some may argue that only so much can be done with Ambient Drone music. Yet taking into consideration the comparative statement “a picture is worth a thousand words”, I think that one very well executed, well crafted, and well sustained chord with the appropriate timbre and sonic elements can provide a wonderful listening experience to those who need not rely on rhythm, beats, chord changes, or lyrics to enjoy music as an art form. Keeping that sentiment in mind, I would certainly recommend adding Colonial Skyway’s release, Landline, to your collection. Take this album with you as you’re driving through the countryside, on a vacation by the shore of a beach or your favorite lake, or on any activity - indoors or outdoors - that may grant you inner peace.