Unsound Records

The Diminisher

The Diminisher is David McDonnell – the very same who started Bablicon with bass player Griffin Rodriguez (of Icy Demons) and drummer Jeremy Barnes (of Neutral Milk Hotel). David also continues with drummer Dylan Ryan to ooze fresh sound from all orifices in their incarnation Michael Columbia. The Diminisher is Dave’s alter ego, and Imaginary Volcano is about as altered of a rock record as you can hear.

At home in his native Chicago, in his space at the recording studio called Shape Shoppe, the Diminisher hunkers down low and peers into the exposed guts of what lying on a rug looks like an old-fashioned robot with tape machine eyes. This is where he plies his craft. Electric pianos, amps and a drum kit effectively cordon off sections of the big room, creating a maze-like path, peppered with smaller keyboards, controllers, amps, and instruments. A short-stock electric bass lies on the couch behind him. “There, the transport belt came off again,” he says, standing up.

Some of the instruments on Imaginary Volcano have been around forever, but have rarely been used on a rock record to this advantage. Violin, viola, cello: a trio of expertly played strings arranged by The Diminisher overlays a harpsichord drone in the opening bars of “Brooklyn’s Sinking,” lending brave contrast to the rock steady contraption that is Dylan Ryan on drums and Griffin Rodriguez on bass. “They have a really nice harpsichord in [a church nearby], but it was completely out of tune. They let me record with it at night as long as I tuned it for them,” he says of the peculiar instrument.

The Diminisher’s sound has always been satisfyingly and spontaneously organic. Although he embraces electronics – samplers and keyboards are prevalent in all his music – he shies away from the digital. “If I can do it with analog or real instruments, I do.”

You hear the difference. In “Prelude to Ether,” the transitional fifth track on Imaginary Volcano, the Diminisher uses rerouted tape machines to make loops, and to create a “tape delay” effect that in combination with recorded cymbals results in the expulsion of sinister alien imprints. “I like the sound of tape,” he says. “I like the sound of tape machines. I like the sound of tape machines that are broken.”