Sunday, 1 March 2009

Ripples Of Mystery

This writer already entertained several discussions via email with Daniel Crokaert, boss of Mystery Sea, regarding our opposite views in relation to the myriads of so-called musicians who infest the world by walking across the open-to-anybody gates of dark ambient and field recording-based market, the place where any idiot can buy a synth and a multi-effect device to churn out 20 discs per year until pre-recorded underwater bubbles, dreadful workstation presets and sampled sanctified chants materialize, remorselessly suffocating the poor victim. In any case, no question about the fact that this Belgian label is among the rare imprints in this perspective whose releases maintain a sufficient standard of quality and, occasionally, are plainly outstanding (honest!).

Celer (Will Long & Danielle Baquet-Long) have become a recognized name in this field. Admittedly, at first I was not entirely persuaded after hearing some of the (mainly) loop-derived early works that they had sent me - very kind-heartedly indeed - upon my request. Yet I’m almost sold, as today the duo easily fits amidst the region’s preeminent hypnotizers and everything experienced in this room - either self-released or published elsewhere - has been credibly charming since that initial approach. Tropical is one of those records composed on very few elements that, in the great scheme of things, result extremely momentous, determining a veritable change of mood during the listening session. Everlasting obscurities and consuming frequencies succeed at a snail's pace, each time with increased potential; there were moments in which both my wife and myself remained with our mouths shut as mammoth mumbles bounced around the house, playing hide-and-seek in the corners of the walls. Although somewhat glacial in terms of sheer stimulus, the music possesses a sort of electronic porosity that renders its cryptic character wholly acceptable. This stuff influences the nervous system in a positive sense; no wonder that the Longs are also active in the area of musical therapy for children. A gorgeously humming album, highly recommended to real specialists who want to subject themselves to over 52 minutes of solemn stupor.

Another precious thing comes from Christopher McFall – not that there were any doubts, as nowadays the man from Kansas City is probably the overall deepest operator in this congested sector. For its large part, This Heat Holds Snow definitely belongs in Mystery Sea’s top five, on the same level of awareness and profundity of, say, Aidan Baker’s At The Fountain Of Thirst. Still, where the Canadian loopmeister utilized stratified guitars to elicit unearthly atmospheres packed with wraithlike entities, McFall continues to focus on the disquieting aspects of his urban setting to call out misplaced souls and puzzling uncertainties in a mixture of reiterative low-key mourning and hopes crumbled under the weight of an eternal world-weariness. The truly remarkable feature of this composer’s music is the perfect balance between familiarity - usually evoked by successions of events that instantly throw the susceptible receiver into a classic state of “back-to-childhood” emotional discovery - and a pinch of apprehension. The mastery with which apparently discordant factors – inner-city components, radiophonic emissions, barely audible voices, secluded rumbles – are seamed in this study on human reaction to obscurity is unequivocally impressive, as being vaguely acquainted with a sonic symptom but not able to effectively determine the source is a bewildering experience for a conscious listener. This uninterrupted displacement is what makes opuses like this a necessity, just as all the rest of McFall’s production. In this small land we don’t content ourselves with bell-and-whistle fa├žades and bogus arcane ruminations, you know. This quiet artist delivers unsettling substance by the truckload.

Well designed yet less surprising, Nautilus With Wings is an effort by From The White Chimneys, namely Ben Fleury-Steiner and Danny Kreutzfeldt. The foremost origin of this record is “a fascination with the hydrothermal vents of the Mariana Trench” and, sure enough, the impression is one of submarine environments spiced with lavishly reverberating drones, upsetting hisses and whispers and various kinds of ominous clattering. Here lies the main problem: those remote thuds and (possibly) intimidating undercurrents, while finely displayed and reproduced, have been heard too many times by now (and in this particular case it looks as the compositional impetus wasn’t actually pushed to the limit) therefore the cognisant can’t really differentiate this from hundreds of similar records utilizing analogous ingredients. The sources are deployed rather linearly and we’re left to contemplate – if so desired – their acoustic gloominess throughout the progression. That’s all. On the other hand, at least two segments exist (for example, the bulk of the second movement) in which the harmonic permutations of the droning resonances result as delightfully complementary to certain transitory mental dispositions of the reviewer; I’d be willing to bet that processed guitars were carefully used in those ear-rewarding passages (this could be just an inkling of mine, though). In essence, what we got is an adequately good-sounding outing that, however, stands a notch below the previously analyzed two thirds of this triptych.