Dana Schechter – the one-woman, multi-instrumental whirlwind behind the Insect Ark moniker – makes music ready-built for rumination. “Portal/Well”, Schechter’s full-length debut is a beautiful, droning mass of sound. Having served time as bassist in M. Gira’s Angels of Light, the easy logline in would be to describe her as a “one-woman Swans”, and there are certainly some similarities. Quiet passages thrum and build to walls of Swans-like noise, and the percussion is plodding, hypnotic and cymbal-heavy like Gira’s best work. What sets this apart, however, is Schecter’s masterful lap steel. Wielding the sounds it makes like a weapon, her fluid lines buzz and sweep, creating a swelling counterpoint to the claustrophobic arrangements.
Other than the brief punctuation of two 90-second long interludes, the album is filled with long, brooding “songs” that highlight Schecter’s compositional prowess. Songs stretch and contract (a trick one is wont to assume she picked up under Gira’s tutelage) and evolve from rumbles in the darkness to full-on wails of terror, sometimes slowly and often not. The titular opening track is likely the most user-friendly way in, and that ain’t saying a lot…unfolding over 7 minutes, it’s a harrowing and beautiful summation of everything that Schechter is capable of. Contrasted to that is the serenity of album-closer, “Low Moon”, all sustained orchestration and buzzing strings punctuated by a couple of simple electronic bells. It’s kind of breathtaking. Give yourself over to Insect Ark’s doom-laden explorations and you will come out the other side a believer.