AKHET: Akhet (DDL on Tonefloat)
This release from 2011 offers 58 minutes of music that combines abrasion with a melodic presence.
Akhet is: Dirk Serries (aka vidnaObmana, Fear Falls Burning), Paul van den Berg, and Marc Verhaeghen (from Klinik).
One night in 2007, these three musicians met at Verhaeghen's lab for a friendly visit, and the Akhet release is the result of their impromptu jam session. Needless to say this music was improvised without any prior preparations--not that you could tell, so fluid is the tuneage.
Verhaeghen's electronics are versatile and aggressive. Dials are twirled to generate piercing tones that swoop and undulate. The electronics become more fluid as the album progresses, replacing jarring contrast with a tendency to approximate melodic definition. In fact, in the last track the electronics adopt an hyperactivity in which keystrokes produce frenzied faux rhythmics that are liable to exhaust the listener.
Van den Berg's guitar resounds like a tortured animal, releasing agonized squeals and searing chords capable of peeling paint from a concrete wall. Do not expect discordant outbursts; instead his performance indulges in outputs that balance grating punctuations with nimble-fingered riffs.
Serries' atmospheric tonalities provide haunting backdrops for all this, textural fields of vaporous sound whose rarefied substantiality injects a moody temperament to the gestalt.
The release offers four 15 minute tracks, each exploring realms of sonic intensity. While the basic foundation tends to be harmonic, the presence of the agile guitar provides a melodic influence to the beatless music. That the tuneage is a freeform expression is hardly noticeable as the music flows with cohesion and skill.
This music stretches the genre of drone into a wondrous territory of mesmerization replete with teeth-shattering severity. The union of noise and melody is quite attractive, not just in it predilection to stimulate cerebral activity, but equally in its hypnotic charisma.
BASS COMMUNION: Cenotaph (CD on Tonefloat)
This release from 2011 offers 77 minutes of spectral music.
Bass Communion is Steven Wilson (from Porcupine Tree and Blackfield).
This release consists of four long tracks (each around 20 minutes long), in which moody texturals are enhanced by ghostly electronics, creating zones of ambience with portentous undercurrents.
Track one is typified by a remote grinding atmospheric punctuated by barely audible crackling. Gradually a tempo emerges, muted and steady like a heartbeat. From the periphery, tenuous tones waft into the mix, crafted to mimic a heavenly choir not generated by organic lungs. A guttural drone contributes a soft annex to the harmonic structure with its ebb and flow.
The next piece continues the music's crepuscular disposition. Airy tonalities define a winsome foundation. Ethereal beats establish a cyclic rhythm. Auxiliary electronics creep into the flow, creating a spooky milieu with their desolate squeals. That crackling sound (from the last track) is present here, conjuring the feel that one is listening to an old vinyl recording. Effects come and go, from growling diodes to dolorous winds to a twinkling keyboard riff, imbuing the tuneage with their haunting implications.
In the third track the backdrop ambience adopts a hornish resonance, remote and mournful and elongated into an infinite field of satiny vibrations. The grind of an even more remote rotary device slides into play, churning its way through the auralscape like a ship plowing the ocean. The illusionary presence of strings wafts deep in the water, establishing the possibility of violins or a cello striving to be heard through the miring drones.
The heartbeat rhythm (from the first piece) is back in last piece, providing a steadfast punctuation amid the vaporous tones (some of which bear a resemblance to those drowned strings from the previous song). The gentle interplay of these elements produces a subtle tension that endures after the album is finished.
These compositions feature no pinnacles; each piece's music maintains an even temperament to its end. In this manner, a mood of tense anticipation thrives through the album, captivating the listener and plunging them into a realm of gray potential.
SAND SNOWMAN: The World's Not Worth It (CD on Tonefloat)
This release from 2011 offers 43 minutes of trancey chamber folk.
Sand Snowman is a sound project by Gavan Kearney joined by long-time muse Moonswift, Steven Wilson (from Porcupine Tree, on guitar), Amandine Ferrari (vocalist from Eden House), and Maarten Scherrenburg (from Use of Ashes, on drums).
Combining elements of folk, ambient and progrock, this music achieves a state of chamber music that borders on trance with its delicate tunes.
The guitar is gentle, generally acoustic, and perfectly suits the languid music with its meticulous picking and strumming. There are some instances of electric guitar, but these too are restricted to satiny expressions.
Electronics churn out droney embellishments with burbling emphasis. Smooth texturals waft in the backgrounds of several songs. Keyboards provide tender melodies, whether they be lilting organ or more regal piano passages.
The percussion is retrained and almost incidental, providing sparse tempos that lurk within the mix. Even when the rhythms muster to a conventional presence their influence remains luxuriously soft.
Ferrari's vocals are sweet and fragile, excellently evoking a melancholic daze. There are some male vocals, too, exploring the parameters of tragedy.
Other instruments are employed when needed throughout the music, like a mournful saxophone or a lovely clarinet solo.
These compositions possess a gentle beauty in their unhurried character. The fusion of the serene instruments and pleasant vocals generate a novel hypnotic state that is more than ambience yet less than rock. This ethereal definition is dreamy yet vibrant, wholly engaging.
The first 500 copies of this release comes with a companion CD (Vanished Chapters), recorded in perfect isolation in Kearney's East London studio and offers a more withdrawn taste of tuneage.
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