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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I.Corax - "Kuilu"

Artist: I.Corax
Album: Kuilu
Year: 2014
Label: Aural Hypnox
Genre: Ritual / Dark Ambient
Website:  helixes.org/auralhypnox

This completes Aural Hypnox's re-releasing of all the old I.Corax material on the defunct Blue Sector label. Kuilu was originally released 2004. It is a live recording of the first ever I.Corax performance which took place on March 2nd, 2002. The press release mentions that this material is simpler and more straight forward than other recorded material. This album features only 4 songs and a rather short total runtime of about 39 minutes.

Since the press release states that this is both a live recording and is "simpler and more straight forward", I almost expected it to act as more of a relic of a bygone era, and a novelty for fans of the project rather than a standalone album that is enjoyable to listen to. However, after listening I feel that the music unquestionably has enough merit to be more than a mere novelty showcasing the history of the project.
The first track, "The Face of the Sun", is a great opener and honestly doesn't strike me as all that minimal (in the scope of ritual ambient). There is a steady drone that permeates the entire piece, slowly growing and mutating over the 9 minute duration; though there are plenty of other elements utilized (clanking percussion, voice/chanting, field recordings) such that I did not get bored, nor did it feel overly monotonous. The repetition creates a truly hypnotic feeling that sucks you into this ritual. This song builds consistently and by the 5 minute mark you can feel it ripping through the fabic of the material world and opening the doorway to the realm of the spirit.
The second track, "Menhir", carries a bit more "open" sound; whereas the opener feels like you are enclosed within the confines of a ritual room, this one feels as if you are standing in an spacious open field in the astral plane - the beeping analog squelches and slow, thumping percussion bring to life a vast, strange, and almost alien world parallel to our own. While this song is more repetitious, it carries such an interesting sound that I almost didn't notice. It kind of reminds me of a really dark, gritty version of some of the older, psychedelic Future Sound of London material.
The third track, "Tephra", is fairly similar in scope to "Menhir" - it also works with the very spacious, subtly psychedelic sound of an open ethereal field/meadow. It's fairly minimal and there is an annoying high pitched sound/drone that occurs too often, but the sounds used are quite powerful and enough to create visionary and deep atmospheres.
The final song, "Animus Desertis" is the shortest at only 6 minutes. It goes back to the sound of the opener and has a more confined feel, as if you are once again back in your darkened ritual room, lit by naught by solitary candle. Modulating analog pads and shimmering sfx which swirl about keep up the blackened psychedelic vibe as you close the door betwixt this realm and the next. This song is probably the least interesting here, as it just sounds like the pieces from all the other tracks used together in a different order, but it's still enjoyable and acts as a more or less fitting closing piece.

Kuilu turned out to be quite an enchanting and powerful album, and I would not have thought it to be a live recording if I was not explicitly told. It was recorded well and the sound is quite good - while as a whole it does have something of a murky and gritty tone, that's par for the course with Aural Hypnox material anyway. They were certainly able to do enough / use enough elements in a live setting to create a full and profound listening experience. I find that the short runtime is beneficial; it's long enough to create a poignant piece that fully explores the chosen sounds and textures, but if it were longer I feel that it would become monotonous. Definitely a must hear for fans of Aural Hypnox and ritual ambient.

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