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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Quick Looks 04-05-12

Pandora's Black Book - "The Fall"
[CRL Studios]

The Fall is the new album from Pandora's Black Book aka Lucidstatic's moodier brother, released via his own imprint CRL Studios. It's nice to hear that PBB is developing it's own identity and embracing the slower, broodier side of electronic music. For the most part this EP consists mainly of pads, melodies (particularly piano), and sparse, groovy drum patterns. The focus on percussion is much less than with his Lucidstatic material, and even previous PBB. That said, a decent amount appears and there are still signs of his trademark glitchy, breakcore style. Some of the tracks sound like a more minimal, atmospheric Lucidstatic, such as "L0st in the D4rk"; while some could be considered ambient with a cinematic edge, like "Left Alone With Myself" and "Midnight Prayer". On "Snow Serpents" he even channels Displacer, with cold, melancholy synthlines and upbeat percussion. My major gripe is that he doesn't really pull off the ambient thing too well, in most cases it sounds like he just forgot to put the beats in, and these tracks will appear to build up to something but never quite get there. The songs are more cohesive structure-wise than older works, and the production is certainly better. The album concludes with four remixes. The Lucidstatic one gives "Midnight Prayer" some much needed direction and energy, sounding much better than the original. The Iammynewt mix of the same song adds in some simple beats and quirky, bright video game-esque melodies which clash oddly with the dark, sultry vocals. The EroticCore SteNch dnb mix adds some interesting dark dnb flavor to "Burrowers" which sounds good, though at times disjointed. Overall, not a terribly standout collection of songs, but worth the cost of admission. Fans of Pandora's Black Book and Lucidstatic will find something here to enjoy.

Old Forgotten Lands - "Primal"
[Hypnotic Dirge Records]

I find humorous the chasm between what dark ambient (CMI, etc) guys perceive as "dark ambient" and what black metal guys think is "dark ambient". This album came to be from black metal imprint Hypnotic Dirge under the label of "dark ambient". This isn't remotely like what you'd find on Malignant, Loki, CMI, etc, but I guess compared to black metal I see where they're coming from. The name Primal could not be more apt for this. This sounds like very primitive ritual music, being performed by ancient cultists in the woods under cover of the moon. Very organic and earthen. It sounds like the sounds are all from traditional instruments: acoustic guitar, drums, flutes, bells, etc. That's not really my thing, but I can't refute that the simplistic, repetitive compositions are indeed dankly atmospheric and hypnotic. There is a really good variety of stuff here, from more upbeat guitar strumming with drums, to slower more brooding pieces driven by flute or drones, to stuff that sounds like folk metal (minus the distortion), to stuff that is reminiscent of Diablo or similar dark RPG Music. A few of the tracks have vocals. The biggest flaw in my opinion is the rawness of the whole thing (think Burzum, Woods of Ypres, etc). The overall volume is extremely low (+ it fluctuates track to track), and the sound quality is lo-fi and gritty (though this does lend a bit of darkness to the atmosphere). Going along with the rawness, in some tracks it sounds like they make mistakes while playing but failed to edit it out or re-record the part. My favorite track is "Old Forgotten Lands" which sounds the most fleshed out, full, and cohesive. It has solid guitar work and some synthesizer pads which flow nicely, coupled with really good vocals - it reminds me of more folk-y Agalloch material. Overall, this isn't really a style I'd go after, but it's done pretty well for what it is. I would've liked if they had better, more full production to make it sound like an album and not a demo. Fans of black metal who like ritual and folk stuff, check it out.

Mytrip / EUS - split

Mytrip provides another slab of gritty, droning dark ambient. I enjoy the material here more than their last release. Overall the tracks are pretty boring and lo-fi, but certainly abysmally dark and claustrophobic. No easy listening here. Kind of like drowning in a murky, nearly pitch black sewer. My only problem is that the tracks tend to run too long at 8 and 9 minutes, and would've worked better and conveyed the same feeling if they had been restrained to 5 or 6. The aptly named "I Eat Isolation" and "Watching Myself" are both unsettling cuts of isolationist ambient, while "From A Distance" employs more noise and resides closer to death industrial.
The EUS side is more interesting composition-wise, and for some reason noticeably quieter (though the volume waxes and wans throughout). Very similar dark moods to Mytrip, but with more stuff happening and more subtly melodic content. According to discogs, the EUS part is one 27 minute track, however I got it broken up into 7 pieces. All 7 tracks run into each other with no gap, so it is as if one singular piece. The greater piece evolves over these 7 tracks, starting as quiet, brooding ambient which grows into a writhing mass of noise & sludge, then dipping down again and entering almost post-rock territory with what sounds like delayed, plucked guitar drowned in reverb before going back into droning dark ambient.  The whole thing reminds me of the ruins of what was a beautiful temple, now filthy, withered and covered in shadow. Again, super gritty production, but good ideas. If you like the more lo-fi dark ambient stuff than this is one to check out.

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