I’m not going to lie. Shortly after receiving Qosmic Qey‘s Doorway tape, I set about trying to synch up its two-song (one per side), hour-long drone sprawl with various episodes of Carl Sagan‘s Cosmos. It didn’t really work, but was kind of a fun endeavor all the same, and that I’d even try should probably give you some idea of where the one-man project from Ice Dragon vocalist Ron Rochondo fits sonically. There are a couple samples — I think more in “Part II” than “Part I,” both songs clocking in at precisely 31:31 — but the crux is synth experimentation, textures and drones weaving in and out of prominence, some pleasant, some abrasive, all expansive in one way or another. I know the noise scene — that’s actual noise, not noise rock — has been into tapes for some time even before the current and alleged revival of the medium — but that’s not really what Qosmic Qey sounds like. The two pieces are more like isolated tracks off a space rock record, and when they pierce, they do so in the context of other parts that are soothing and hypnotic.
The tape itself is purple, the inset is a hand-painted watercolor, the case is neon yellow, and the audio is no less colorful. Things get particularly calm a little before halfway through “Part I,” but a headphone listen reveals patterns shifting and sounds jumping from one channel to the other, notes arriving in a deceptively fast swirl and moving fluidly around and through each other. When it comes to drones and long-form ambience, something I always enjoy is the impression that every wave of sound is audible, that you can actually hear those waves. Rationally, it seems more likely that’s imagination, but with the twists in the audio that arise as “Part I” makes its way from layered drones into a hiss-heavy minimalist key line and, eventually, to a programmed beat that’s gone almost as soon as it appears — could this be walking through different doors and finding what’s there? — the feeling of undulating sound remains. “Part II” carries the theme of opening with a space-themed sample and moving into drones, but as soon as it kicks in is darker-toned and more foreboding.
Since side one and side two are both over half an hour long, chances are that if you’re listening to Doorway, you’re going to get lost in it at some point. “Part II” doesn’t have that same kind of snap-you-back-to-reality to it that the aforementioned beat offered in “Part I,” but distinguishes itself with more of a sense of build, going from low hum to abrasive, distorted noise over the course of 20 minutes and keeping some of the cave echo that will be familiar to those who’ve been aware of Rochondo‘s work in Ice Dragon. If it’s space, “Part II” is deeper, darker space than “Part I,” and by about 22 minutes in, it’s arrived at someplace threatening. It’s more of a surprise, then, that around 23 minutes in, “Part II” comes to a complete, dead stop and begins all over with a quiet, almost mumbling, sample explaining planetary rotation topping wind-style analog synth. There are effects low in the mix on the sample, giving a suitable otherworldly feel (another benefit of headphones), and another stop afterwards marks a break into ringing electronic tones that build, resonate, distort and finally, echo away over the last several minutes, the last minute rising from silence to a machine hum that in turn fades out.
Probably goes without saying that Qosmic Qey isn’t going to be for everyone, but I’ll say it anyway. It’s either going to be a zone-out or a conscious challenge, but either way, Doorway provokes a response, and particularly with such an experimental feel, that’s something of an accomplishment. I can think of way worse ways to lose your head. If you’re an Ice Dragon fan looking for a curio or a drone-head seeking a fix, you don’t really lose out.