[12 April 2007]
“Empire” has become a fashionable word these days, so much so that I found myself cringing at the sight of Loren Dent’s follow-up to Love Versus Dirt. Is this yet another attempt to capitalize on the renewed popularity of the word? And what do empires have to do with milk? Hailing from Austin, Texas, one might assume that Dent subtly captures the ways in which imperial ideology has and continues to nurture citizens of the United States. The problem is that there seems to be little to no relation to empire in the solemn layers that constitute Dent’s electronic-scapes. Then again, Empires and Milk might ask us to reconsider what empire sounds like. Does John Williams’ “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)” really capture the increasingly amorphous trajectories of today’s global order? Of course, the track titles on Dent’s second release reference not globalization, but rather, the older practice of governing dispersed territories, colonies and states from afar. At the same time, the album delivers the potential beauty lying just beneath the surface of an environment currently saturated with the intrusive static of pretensions to global power. The ambience suggests, perhaps, that there is something to be salvaged from a place both fragmented by and complicit with the divisive forces of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. This is a somewhat tedious if laudable achievement in terms of the skills required to create, record and mix seemingly discordant sounds. Clocking in at 72 minutes, the disc promises a long, rewarding listen for fans of contemplative, almost spiritual, renderings of electronica; for the newcomer disinclined to the nuances of electronic synthesis, it will undeniably prove challenging. Either way, Dent’s work fills a gap left by those artists who merely capitalize on the popularity of empire without assessing how its sounds might be manipulated for the purposes of documentation, reflection, or critique.