I first heard about Ad-ver-sary a couple of years ago when I came across some of his remixes on the web. Off the top of my head I remember a remix of Converter and one of Iszoloscope. Those remixes had both character and power, and I enjoyed both…perhaps even more than the original tracks. Other than that, Ad-ver-sary was a name I heard in passing every once in a while, but it never solidified into something more. Cut to 2008: he finally releases an album! Cool. Ok so after not hearing it for a while I hear some commotion from the interweb. On the one hand I hear that “Bone Music” is the album of the year, and on the other I hear that it is “not unique”. Well there is a pretty big chasm between those opinions, so lets explore “Bone Music” in greater detail:
Well, like most contemporary release we get a pretty standard package with a 1-fold booklet. The art is kind of ok; it’s a silhouette of some birds on a tree with a blue and white sky behind them. What is contained inside is a trifle more interesting in my opinion. There are no vocals in the music, however as a way to try to convey something to the listener, Ad-ver-sary has written little blurbs about each track: sometimes his own words, sometimes a quote; sometimes one sentence. Most of them are completely vague and puzzling, but it nonetheless helps to reflect the fact that the artist has personal stock in the album and he cares enough to allow light to fall on certain fractions of the greater picture. Will the art blow your mind and make all things clear to you? No. But the packaging will help guide your subconscious and perhaps even your waking conscious in the direction of what ad-ver-sary wants to show you.
“Bone Music” is a really weird album. It took me quite a few listens to fully wrap my head around what is contained herein. There are two main faces to the music. One is a highly organic and ancient – almost primordial – sound. The melodic and textural aspects of the album take on this sound. The other sound is more industrial…it is that of a dilapidated factory spewing out pollution and shrapnel. This sound is found in the rhythmic aspect of the album. Somehow the juxtaposition of these two very dissimilar sounds is melded here with astonishing results.
The album as a whole is pretty varied. All the songs have a similar giant-shadow-brooding-overhead feel to them, but they contain many different sounds and come in several speeds. The tracks seemed to be focused on two things: crunchy breaks and thick atmosphere. These are the major elements you will find in every track on “Bone Music”. Most of the tracks are slower and more brooding, usually consisting of a giant build up of rawness. They start off slow and maintain a steady ebb and flow while continuously building upon themselves, adding layer upon layer of raw earth and emotion. A lot of them introduce some cool melodies for a bit, but the melody is almost never the focus of the track. I’m talking about tracks like “Ancients” and “Waiting for Gira”. Many if not all tracks all have a very earthen/organic feel to them. This causes the mental generation of a tribal culture or ritual. Some tracks like “International Dark Skies” include some tribal sounding drums, but for the most part there is nothing overly tribal (compared to This Morn Omina per say) about the tracks. However I will say that I enjoy the primeval tribal-ish atmosphere very much. Then there are a couple of tracks: “No Exit” and “Just (Spooks)” which are a little more upbeat and are more focused on a fast pounding rhythmic noise-esque beat. These tracks are a bit like Iszoloscope in that they heavily utilize distorted breakbeats + massive dark atmospheres, however they are less driving and brutal than Iszo and seem a bit more brooding and contemplative (the best brief comparison I can come up with is iszo = sound from the darkest pits of hell, adversary = sound from an ancient dark forest).
Ad-ver-sary commands quite an arsenal of sounds and moods, but he does well to unite all of them into a cohesive, diverse and balanced whole. I can’t say that this album sounds much like anything else on the planet and I think that the Ad-ver-sary sound is truly unique.
The remixes on this album kind of surprised me as well. The Tonikom mix is excellent; she takes the ad-ver-sary sound and twists it just enough so that it retains its original flavour, but also tastes like something new and fascinating. I think it’s the best work I have heard by Tonikom. The Antigen Shift mix is a very competent combination of the Ad-ver-sary sound with the sound presented on his most recent opus: The Way Of The North. I love that album so of course I love this remix…very cold, complex post-industrial space and landscapes with subtle beats. The Synapscape mix sounds mostly like a Synapscape song and not much like Ad-ver-sary. This is cool except that I don’t really like that European power noise sound and I find this mix to be too minimal and repetitive; the beat is ok on it’s own but the track is basically just that beat and a little bit of Ad-ver-sary sprinkled on top; not enough substance to it.
The bonus track is an Ad-ver-sary remix of an Urusai song. I don’t know what Urusai sounds like originally. Anyway it’s not bad for a free addendum. It sounds kind of like a b-side. It’s pretty mediocre in its composition; nothing terrible but nothing hugely striking. For the most part it appears to be comprised of ideas that were fleshed out and made better in other songs that appear on this album. The song is a bit long at 8 minutes and tends to drag on often; with periods of long monotonous sampled talking without much musical variation which I found more soporific than captivating. But as a bonus track it is a cool addition. I hope that he releases some more from his array of remixes.
The production is both good and “not as good”. Although surprisingly, the “not so good” is a factor of what makes this album work in my opinion. Most of the production is pretty solid and well done. The levels are even and the instruments are all able to be heard well sitting next to each other. My meaning behind “not so good” is that everything has sort of a massive (think giant hall) & gritty sound, sort of like you’re listening in a huge tunnel, but cleaner. It reminds me of VAC or older Ah-Cama Sotz albums. Every VAC album has a raw and gritty sound, and in my opinion this makes the music sound more real and visceral. I find this to be the case for “Bone Music” as well; there is a certain raw-ness to the production that makes the album sound more…authentic. It doesn’t sound like a computer – it sounds like life, complete with all the artifacts that make up living that don’t exist in trance leads. It sounds highly chthonic and this creates and/or bolsters the tribal/ancient feel of the tracks. Anyway it was mastered by Yann Faussurier of Iszoloscope/Memmaker fame so you know that aspect is solid. If you are really intent on super futuristic modern production like Soman or Nosiuf-X than maybe you won’t like the production, but whatever...
Artistic Merit: 8/10
As mentioned about, I think this album houses a very unique sound. It’s not totally new, but it shows that Ad-ver-sary is not afraid to explore territory that most industrial musicians would never travel to. This album follows in the footsteps of many other quasi-monumental post-power noise albums such as the aforementioned Antigen Shift - The Way of the North or This Morn Omina’s Le Serpent Blanc/Rouge. Anyway, “Bone Music” is a fantastic debut and one that could easily be the gateway to something totally unique and much needed for the genre. (Though, he kind of gets screwed ‘cause it is his debut and unfortunately you can’t say “wow he made this after making 5 noise albums!!”)
Even though the songs on “Bone Music” are very different, they all contain a common sound which translates into a universal album flow. The songs are slow and contain many great textures, but they all have a driving sentiment to them, mostly being pushed by the steady beats that are all pretty close to the same BPM. Many of the songs are pretty lengthy and at points a couple of them tend to drag, most notably the 9 minute “Number Nine”. Even in those cases you can skip to the next track and find that its comparable soundscape will allow you feel like you are picking up from where you left off on the last track…but in a pleasant way and not an aggravating “this all sounds the fucking same” way. Even the remixes on this album are consistent enough with the original pieces. The track “Epilogue” is obviously intended to be an end, however I find that it works just as well as a bridge into the “second half” of the album. The Tonikom and Antigen Shift tracks are both mid paced, rhythmically driven pieces, but contain the same detailed multi-layered ambience that the rest of the album caries, and so they fit in perfectly. The Synapscape track is predictably focused on distorted beats and less on ambient texture. It is a nice change of pace, but it’s the only piece that distinctively stands apart from the rest of the album (but it’s a remix so that is kind of the point). The bonus track is a remix by Ad-ver-sary so of course it has the trademark Ad-ver-sary feel, and while it does feel like an added track, it shares enough similarity to other material to feel at home on this disc.
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
In summary this is a strange and unique album that would be an excellent asset to anyone interested in forward-thinking, genuine and well crafted post-industrial music. If you are bored of the current state of music in the “industrial” world and are looking for something that will help you reflect on and appreciate all the many small pieces comprising life, than give “Bone Music” a try. I recommend this to anyone who has good taste in music…er I mean fans of interesting post-noise like newer Antigen Shift, Iszoloscope, Ah Cama-Sotz, This Morn Omina, Totakeke, Autoclav1.1, etc etc. I am very much looking forward to the next release by this project.