It is deceptively easy to characterize Seth Nehil's first album as a drone album. Tracing the Skin of Clouds explores the microscopic variations in long organic soundscapes, with a relatively constant pitch originating from Tibetan bells as an ever-present underpinning. But whereas other drone artists, such as Eliane Radigue or Jliat, emphasize the electronic nature of their sonic origins, Nehil is closer in spirit to the field recordings at the base of the work of Ora or Michael Northam (who worked with Nehil in Orogenetics, an art and music collective active in Austin, TX, in the late '90s). Nehil's music is based entirely on natural sounds and the manipulation of physical materials, and he uses little or no processing on the sounds, differentiating himself by the methods of sound collection. "Cirrus" features wooden chimes, Tibetan bells, scraping percussion, rubbed drum skins, and rolling glass, all gently mutating without any significant events. "Nimbus" is quieter, rustling leaves with distant snaps, with a more ominous electronic-sounding drone fading in and out. The backdrop of "Stratus" is a series of slow-moving, low white-noise waves, possibly originating in wind sounds, with a growing layer of continuous bell sounds moving into a clear shimmering at the end. Nehil's use of ordinary substances to create the album's ephemeral sounds sets his work apart from many others in the contemporary electro-acoustic field, and the paradox of the album's title is reflected in the music's connection between the mundane and the imagination.
AllMusic Review by Caleb Deupree