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Friday, May 22, 2009

SE - "Epiphora"

Artist: SE
Label: Tympanik Audio
Genre: IDM, Ambient, Downtempo
Website: www.myspace.com/seonline

Packaging: 4/10
1 Fold digipak. The only artwork is a 3D rendering of a syringe. It’s done really well, so if you like syringes you will be happy. That’s pretty much all there is to it though.

Composition: 7.5/10
After a couple Tympanik releases I wasn’t too keen on, I’m glad to see them releasing some nice, atmospheric ambient IDM. ‘Epiphora’ blends lush sweeping pads with subtle rhythmic clicks and beeps and even throws in the occasional melody. It starts off slow with a dark, spacey ambient intro and then gets into some very sloooow IDM. It’s quite minimal, just beats and pads, but the pads are very beautiful and transport my consciousness to distant lands of mechanical dreams and the beats serve as a perfect companion, not too demanding but simply pushing the track along, guiding the listener. Anyway after the first couple songs the album picks up, speed-wise, and showcases some diversity. There are some more upbeat songs and more slow ones. Some tracks are a combination of both. They are all done well, and SE puts enough effort into developing his beats so that the tracks move and progress and keep my attention. I don’t feel like the same shit is being rehashed over and over within a song. The album sounds to me like a strange and dilapidated space-station floating dead and aimlessly through space. The pads and synth sounds are other-worldy (in an outerspace-y / dream-y sort of way) and all the sounds seem to have a gritty texture to them, lending to the imagery of something distant, illusory and decaying…also it lends to stuff sounding muddy.
My only real complaint is that as the album goes on, the pads in every track have a similar sound, and all the beats start to sound the same…i.e. the sound of the drum hits in every song are too similar. It sounds like he uses a lot of distortion on his very digital beats which has a pretty recognizable sound. This sound is pretty cool at first, however it becomes less-so when hearing it in every single track.
There are three remixes at the end: Flaque, Quench and DNN & Huron. The only one I am familiar with is Quench, who I usually enjoy, however this is not one of their best pieces. The Flaque remix is nice, it’s got some very interesting melodic elements and it’s nice to hear a beat that is not made with the digitally distorted hits in every other track. I’m not terribly keen on the breakbeat used, but it’s not bad at all. I think my favorite track on the album is the dnn & huron remix because it has the best production and sounds the most mature…but it’s slooooow so you’d better listen carefully.
Production: 6.5/10The production here is pretty competent. The levels are pretty good, although, on the more “upbeat” songs that have a substantial amount of rhythmic stuff happening the beats sound kind of messy and thin (it sounds like too much digital distortion, or distortion on digital drum hits, or both) and a bit loud.
Artistic Merit: 6/10SE is competent at making this style of music, however it’s not totally innovative and if you’re a fan of IDM there will be a few times where you think ‘hmmm haven’t I heard this before?’ This is SE’s debut so I can’t fault him too much…let’s see where he is in a few years.
Flow: 8/10The cd is fairly consistent in mood, atmosphere and tempo so globally it flows well. The songs themselves flow pretty well too. The tracks are a bit minimal in that they are mostly pads and beats, but the beats are interesting enough to keep your attention and they change frequently enough to keep you engaged. The pads and beats are a little same-y track to track, but this gives the album it’s trademark sound I suppose.
Overall Rating: 7.5 /10I have to admit, ‘Epiphora’ is one of those records that took time to grow on me. The first listen or two really didn’t phase me, but with additional listens and with more actual listening I realized that this is a pretty solid record. I love this style of melodic ambient IDM, so it would be hard for me to hate this, but it also means I’ve heard a ton of this type of stuff before. SE isn’t the best or most original, but this is definitely a record I can get into. If you like the style you won’t be disappointed. I am really curious to see what kind of stuff he puts out in the future. If he continues to evolve his style and polish his production than he could grow into a very worthy IDM producer. Cleaner beats though, please.

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