Review: Daniel J. Gregory – Heard Under Orphan Eyelid (self-released, Jan 29)

Daniel J. Gregory’s modest description of himself as “object botherer” couldn’t be more accurate. Whether he’s assaulting audiences with the amplified sounds of clattering detritus as half of the art-noisecore duo Gregory/McGrory (check out Gateway to Conclusion) or recording an album with the classic singer/songwriter palette of “acoustic guitar, plastic cups, biscuit tins, singing bowl, dry pasta, [and] throat” (Kebab Shop Will Sell Ice Cream), Gregory’s “music” is as skittery and unpredictable as the piles of junk and trash we kick aside every day. Such a direct approach to soundmaking is certainly within the realm of the scruffy, DIY experimentalism I love so dearly, but Gregory always seems to have a point or purpose in mind for his various releases, implicit conceptual facets that reach far beyond the music’s humble essence. Heard Under Orphan Eyelid consists entirely of recordings taken with a mobile phone (of much higher fidelity than any my own phone has ever yielded) and deals with a sense of place in flux. Each piece presents a sonic focus—radio improvisations, malfunctioning electronica, claustrophobic capture of a plastic bag’s innards—that clashes with the environment it occupies. We cling to what we perceive as the primary element of each track but are consistently betrayed as other forces make us aware of Gregory’s surroundings, which despite being dwarfed by their occupants often come across with far greater lucidity: hands make contact with the physical form of the phone, a turn signal clicks on, a sound event ends and nothing is left to do but scramble to end the recording. Heard Under Orphan Eyelid is a rough-edged affair of observation, action, and transmission that reaches for—and, inexplicably, grasps—the sublime.