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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oxyd - "Liveforms"

Artist: Oxyd
Album: Liveforms
Year: 2012
Label: Signifer / Aliens Production
Genre: Ambient, Electronic
Website: www.signiferonline.com


"Liveforms" is the new album from Oxyd, whom you may know under their other moniker Disharmony. According to the press release, this is a collection of live recordings, which would explain the name, although I'm not sure what exactly that means as this does not sound like a "live" album, per say (and honestly, that's a good thing). All the tracks flow into one another as you would expect in a live set. I'm not really familiar with this project, but I do have some knowledge of Aliens Production. One important thing about this album: for whatever reason it seems to be billed as an IDM album; don't be fooled, it's actually almost completely ambient with very little beatwork.

Good stuff:
+ This album carries that "Aliens Production" sound, for lack of a better descriptor. What I mean by that is it sounds very big, digital, and synth heavy. "Liveforms" is an ambient album, and as such it employs a lot of organic textures and sounds (bells, choirs, chanting) which "feel" organic yet "sound" digital, if that makes sense. I guess the closest analogy would be a computer simulation of a forest or a temple - a futuristic, synthetic simulacrum of an ancient place. This album has an extremely vivid dreamy feel to it, as if you're traversing alien forests coalesced from fragments of your deepest thoughts. There is no singular place or time that it takes you to, rather it feels like a collection of many things blending into something oddly familiar yet creepily alien. As a reference I would say more (inverted) psybient or stuff like Future Sound of London rather than the typical "dark ambient" we generally cover.
+ In general, this album is really solid. The songs are extremely atmospheric and complex. Layers of pads complimented by heavy use of sound effects and minute bits of sound which really add to the ambiance. This isn't directionless droning ambient - these are thick, constantly evolving soundscapes which have visions to conjure for you. The best tracks are those that start in one place and finish in another: an example here being 'Propulsion' which opens with an eerie, almost haunted house vibe coupled with clanking & distant choirs and slowly builds into a pounding industrial-ish beat with a possessed, cinematic factory mood. Occasionally a part will break out, such as the middle/end of 'Voices In Me', that sounds straight out of an Ultimae Records album.
+ As mentioned above, each track feeds seamlessly into the proceeding one, so in essence this is one big long track. They accomplish this perfectly, as there are no awkward or even noticeable crossfades.
+ I'm a huge fan of the use of monk chants, even if they don't integrate terribly well into the music.
+ The production is fairly tight, and things sound clear and big. Sometimes too big...

Bad stuff:
- The main flaw is that occasionally this album feels overly compressed/limited, which is a big detriment to ambient music. This kind of stuff really should not be IN YOUR FACE ALL THE TIME. 'Aura' is a big offender, as there are annoyingly noticeable points where every element is fighting for space in the mix. Any time there is percussion this squashing seems to be a problem, since they seem to be of the mindset that drums need to be louder than all else - it's ok to have percussive elements be quiet or slightly obscured by other things, I promise.
- The only track here that has a beat all the way through is 'Emphatic Clone' and, even though it's an ok track, I didn't feel that it really fit with the rest of the album.

A solid ambient album if you are looking for something complex and otherworldly. If a Solar Fields album got corrupted by darkness and a legion of hooded priests, this is what you'd get. Solar Fields' "Movements" + Raison's "Enthraled By The Wind of Lonelienes" anyone? This has made me want to go back and check out some of their previous work.

Overall Rating: 8/10

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