I first met Dyer Lowry at an ATP tour stop in Indianapolis in the summer of 1985. I had been asked to make a 30-minute apperaance at the "clock-your-serve" booth on the tournament grounds, and was just about to depart for my locker when a thin young teenager stepped up to hit a few balls. His speed was nothing special - somewhere in the 80-mph range - but his perfectly repeated motion was mesmerizing. I had never seen such precise accuracy in a physical motion - I could almost make out small squiggly lines between each serve, as if a video tape was being rewound and played repeatedly. The effect was so mesmerizing that I temporarily forgot that I had to play Pat Cash in just an hour.
I approached the young man and inquired as to his tennis experience. He claimed to have had moderate succes in regional junior tournaments, but that his interest in the game had waned - he only found pleasure in the repetitive motions, not the results that followed. To him the pendulum-swing of the ball, its rhythmic bounce and swooping arc, held hallucinatory powers - the longer the rally, the more he could see the fuzz on the ball loosen, the marks on the court gel into patterns, the imaginary lines of each shot intertwine and tangle. Eventually I tired of his philosophizing and departed for my match (a straight set defeat with only two breaks of serve), but I sensed I wouldn't soon forget him.
Over the ensuing decades I have received sporadic communications from Dyer. The only concrete information I have gleaned is that he gave up tennis and has become seduced by the world of underground Noise. Ironically, this information would likely have eluded me had I not coincidentally become a Noise afficionado in the intervening years. My taste tends toward the 90's absurdist noise of the Japanese and American undergrounds as championed by the likes of Bananafish magazine, but I have also labored to keep up with European electronic noise, which it sounds like Dyer is immersed in based on his murky descriptions of his continuing pursuits.
My suspicions were recently confirmed via a 5-song Dyer CD-r entitled Earth Coat Dirge, released through 'this_label.' There are certainly European influences in the warm drones and pulsing noises of Dyer's thoughtful music - I now finally understand what he meant when he wrote that he was "eating Fennesz" - but I'm struck by how well Dyer has reprocessed his influences, to the point where his echoing dissonances, reddened pulsations, and stair-climbing drama all feel less and less like homages to Pita, Oval, and This Heat, and more and more like mossy branches sprouting from the trees that grew from those fine artists' seeds. On "Full Wood (Cool Earth)" he massages a simple drone into a fuzzy storm of bristling howl, while the decaying "Number Five" transforms a cycling organ into a kind of 3-D kaleidoscope of sound. My favorite track, "An Answer" (linked below - ed.) is perhaps Dyer's greatest and simplest triumph: a rippling bit of noise nurtured until it flowers into the kind of towering weapon his serve could certainly have been, had he given it the same kind of devoted attention.
But there's nothing to be gained by contemplating those untraveled roads, especially when I am so warmed by what Dyer has become. I still don't know where he is or if there's more of this hypnotic music in him, but I do know that Earth Coat Dirge has already been granted a permanent place on my mantle next to my 1979 Junior US Open medallion.