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Quietus Reviews: Unbiased Critiques and Analysis

An often flaunted indicator of excellence is the capacity of something to endure over time. Within London’s solitary lighthouse, atop a staircase that groans with each step, and commanding a view of a bend in the Thames to the east, a meticulously arranged arrangement of singing bowls has been softly resonating for twenty-four years. This harmonious display is projected to persist for an additional 976 years without duplication. The expansive vision of Jem Finer’s Longplayer, if it remains steadfast, will unite individuals over a millennium, experiencing the same musical composition in subtly modified segments.

In contrast, Kali Malone explores extended sonic compositions, though her works are typically measured in minutes and hours rather than decades. While her latest release may be deemed lengthy, clocking in at seventy-eight minutes, the tracks themselves, within the realm of drone music, are relatively concise. Only two pieces extend beyond the ten-minute mark.

Rather than forging ahead, Malone delves into the past. The album departs from the electro-acoustic elements of her recent works like “Living Torch” and last year’s expansive “Does Spring Hide Its Joy,” opting instead for the organ dirges reminiscent of her breakthrough album, “The Sacrificial Code.” The compositions on “All Life Long” (with a surprising hint of Lionel Richie) were crafted, performed, and recorded between 2020 and 2023. Some tracks made their debut during the 2021 Variations Festival in Nantes, France, as part of a live-streamed performance featuring Malone and her now-spouse Stephen O’Malley, accompanied by the Macadam Ensemble. Together, they focused on melancholic, sustained notes that resonated deeply with the challenges of the pandemic. Now reimagined, these meticulously intoned shifts are given the space and time to captivate listeners, inviting them to contemplate the subtle undulations that capture their attention throughout “All Life Long.”

Incorporating her signature organ tones, Malone collaborates once again with the aforementioned Macadam Ensemble. Their intertwining choral voices resonate and blend, creating layers that transform these profoundly solemn and majestic performances from the sacred into a more communal and worldly context. The introduction of brass instruments adds a new dimension, with the horns initially exuding a radiant quality, as if heralding a new dawn. Later, they return suffused with melancholy.

A recurring theme gradually unfolds over the course of the album. However, Malone’s revisitations extend beyond the tracks conceived four years prior. Within the album itself, she revisits and reimagines compositions, infusing them with a different instrumental palette. Earlier motifs are reinterpreted through slow, graceful performances by vocals, brass, or organ. These combinations harmonize sweetly at times and clash discordantly at others.

There is a profound weight to these reinterpretations—an endeavor to alter the past, seeking an alternate path. An underlying sense of longing binds these pieces together, embodying the acceptance that accompanies loss. A contemplative hope clung to for so long that it eventually dissipates. The power of these extended works lies in the space they provide for individual interpretations, emotions, and reflections, akin to Rorschach tests or perceiving shapes in clouds. Will these drones evoke the same sentiments and thoughts a millennium from now? Only time will unveil the answer.