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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

4 way split - "The Unreality of Time"

Artist: Cogwheel + Psychomanteum + Rasalhague + Taphephobia
Album: The Unreality of Time
Year: TBA 2012
Label: Kalpamantra
Genre: Dark Ambient, Drone
Website: www.kalpamantra.com

In August 2011 Kalpamantra released the free EP version of The Unreality of Time, the four way split between ambient acts Cogwheel, Psychomanteum, Rasalhague, and Taphephobia. Coming in 2012, they, along with an as-of-yet undisclosed partner label, will releasing the full length version, which features 12 tracks, in hardcopy. I'm going to go out on a limb here and surmise that the overall theme of the split is Time.

Good stuff:
+ Cogwheel
Cogwheel is the only act that I am not familiar with at all. They don't seem to have any releases out, which is a shame if their work here is an indication of their typical output. The first track is an industrial ambient piece in the vein of Atrium Carceri or Tholen: chthonic, deep drones and distant machine sounds flow heavily through darkened subterrain . The second track sounds quite like Psychomanteum actually, as it is a calm yet transcendent melodic, droning piece. The third song is similar to the first but with a semi-annoying vocal sample playing over most of it. Their production isn't the strongest of the bunch, but the songs themselves exploring interesting and fittingly obscure territory.
+ Psychomanteum
Perhaps the most known of the bunch, the Psychomanteum name should ring a bell from their recent debut album "Oneironaut" on Cyclic Law. Their work here is pretty similar to that, in all the right ways. Their tracks are colossal, epic, melodic, droning and do justice to titles like "At The End Of Infinity". "Time is Only Myth" was my favorite track from the EP and is a great meditative piece in the vein of the newer Raison d'etre. Good, spacious production on these gives a sense of being enveloped by space, the void, the endless light, or whatever your absolute emptiness of choice may be.
+ Rasalhague
 Rasalhague is another new name who put out his debut "Rage Inside The Window" on Malignant last year. I'm not terribly familiar with it, but I like the tracks here more than what I remember from said debut. The sounds presented here are kind of in the same vein as Psychomanetum, in that they are long & somewhat droning pieces, however I would say that these are the most active on the release. There is more industrial and organic feeling surrounding these. "Collapsed Symmetry Forgotten" feels like being marooned on a cold, dead alien planet with little to do but contemplate and wonder.  "The Point of Intersection of the Timeless" conjures the same epic transcendent feeling that runs through the rest of the split. "Persistent Illusion On Perpetual Minds" utilizes pulsating drones that provide a hypnotic rhythm which, combined with the layered  melodic droning synths, create a suitable framework for meditative practice.  I remember his full length to be pretty noisey, whereas these tracks do not utilize noise and are thankfully not abrasive.
+ Taphephobia
Taphephobia has likely been around the longest of the 4 acts and has several prior releases. I am only mildly familiar with his work. If you heard his split with Coph'anate Tryr, also on Kalpamantra, than you will know what to expect: invariable, droning soundscapes. Although these tracks are boring, they carry an extremely organic tone, and if you allow yourself to be sucked in, they will transport you to frozen, grey shores or the cold, endless forests of the north. "Burning the Concept of Time" combines a moving, deep earthen drone with disquieting crunching sounds and intermittent static. Kind of reminds me of Megaptera. "Fri Deg Selv..." has the longest title on the album and transports you to the frozen woodlands and icy shores near the arctic circle with its foggy, evolving drone and buried, ancient choir. Even though I find these to be a little more boring than the previous acts' work, I can't say that they don't work alongside them.

Bad stuff:
- The main flaw here is the lack of global mastering - each act has their own level of mixing (volume, limiting, wideness, etc) which results in an inconsistent feel overall. Then opening track "I" by Cogwheel is ridiculously quiet, despite their other two songs being of an acceptable volume. Hopefully this will be addressed prior to the final release.

- 4 of the 12 tracks are available for free download on another release, which always works against an album.

A fantastic idea, and one that works as well in practice as it does in theory. I only wish that more labels did this sort of release. "The Unreality of Time" works as a fitting sampler of each band showcased, but it's more than just that: it is a strong and cohesive album as a whole. Fans of droning dark ambient will want to get this one for sure.

Overall Rating: 8.5-9/10

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