It’s easy to get lost in ambient music. And it’s easy to get lost with ambient music as a genre. If you’re not in the mood to listen to it, it’s not going to strike with you. While its artists do their best to draw in listeners and captivate them with a meditative stream of sound, attention spans don’t always last as long as ambient’s effort.
Dr. Responsible’s six-track exploration Dryads isn’t what you’d expect when reading the labels slapped on it. Bryce Hays implements structure and form to his take on the genre, ending up with a valuable step away from ambient while holding on to the aesthetics that make it appealing.
At first, Dryads seems like it’s going to be exactly what you expect. “Discovery|Manipulation|Transcendence” sets the mood, but it all comes down to whether the listener can sit there for the nearly 10 minutes it goes on for. It soars, but doesn’t deviate too much from the path it was heading towards when the first few notes sprung up. Depending on the mindset you have going into the record, it’s a sleeper that takes too long to get you to the next track or it perfectly sets you in the mood for the remaining 20-plus minutes. If there’s anything that pushes its description of it more towards the latter, it’s the use of percussion. The simple drums give a little taste to what makes this record different.
Then, unexpectedly, “Confrontation 1: Provocation” plays the role of savior. The track swings into a beautiful, almost tropical, guitar riff that perks your ears up and changes the view on what this album is going to be. There’s a niche with ambient music, yes, but half the time ambient albums – the ones that aren’t done well – come across as a continuous layering of unfitting sounds piled atop one another just to be filed under “artistic.” But Dr. Responsible’s use of melody changes its nature. When the track hits, it makes you think, “Did it really take this long for them to figure it out?”
About two-thirds of the album is spent on the opening and closing tracks. That’s a long time. Especially when the meat of the release is sandwiched in the middle. But if the listener lasts through, it’s a worthwhile trip. Hays’ use of vocals is another tactic that sets him apart from his genre counterparts. The human element is interesting and attracts you to keep with the record after the percussion peaks the initial interest. It’s these characteristics that are responsible for a listener getting to experience the tribal feel of “Odious Dumbfuck” or the oceanic nature of “We Seek the Dryads,” that come near the close of the record.
The album isn’t limited to its genre, and that’s what the genre needs. An expansion of boundaries proves fruitful for Dr. Responsible’s latest. More importantly, Dryads helps clear paths for ambient to reach more ears.