Dark and obscure music blog/zine since 2006 [ Post-Industrial / Ambient / IDM ]
contact: woundsoftheearth@gmail.com

| news | reviews | interviews | recommendations | releases | articles | about |

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Displacer - "The Witching Hour"

Artist: Displacer
Album: The Witching Hour
Year: 2008
Label: Tympanik Audio
Genre: Electronic, downtempo, trip hop
Website: http://www.dsplcr.com

Somehow I’ve never managed to hear a real Displacer album, despite the fact that he has remixed every band ever made (almost) and I’ve been hearing the name steadily for the past few years. I’ve heard a few of those mixes and they were very well done, and I am excited to finally be able to hear a full length Displacer album.

Packaging: 7/10
It’s a one fold digipak, but the art is exceptionally cool. I think it was all done by Displacer which makes it that much cooler. The CD itself has the best art of any CD I own (thank god, I’m so tired of the single hue + blocky text that every cd in the world has on it). Also I am a fan of the black and white color scheme. There isn’t much text other than the usual tracklist and thank yous, however it is arranged in an interesting/non-traditional manner so I wasn’t immediately bored with it.

Composition: 7.5/10
“The Witching Hour” is a weird album. I don’t know what to call it in terms of genre…I guess electronic music. Maybe downtempo. It’s kind of funny that it is being released on Tympanik which is sort of focused towards the industrial scene, because nothing about this release is industrial. “The Witching Hour” takes you back to the 90s with its mellow lo-fi compositions with a sound quality akin to those old time-y trip hop prodigies Portishead and uh…you know, the rest of them from Bristol (sans guitars, thankfully). Anyway I think that this is a pretty cool thing, because you know no one else is throwing down like that anymore (except Portishead I guess). Anyway like most of the Tympanik roster, this album is predominantly focused on rhythmic elements; there is lots of complex beat work and plenty of breaks to chew on. I guess the other main focus is on the bass, which is quite upfront (though not dominant) in the mix, although most of it is filtery and leaning towards the midrange and unfortunately it lacks phat deep punch which is usually expected from stuff with breaks. There are some pads and melodies too, although these are just fun extemporaneous elements and are never the focus of the track. Most of the melodies are fairly simple and static; serving more as complementary ear candy than trying to make your brain explode. These elements work really well together though; once again bringing up the analogy of this to instrumental trip hop.
One thing that I really enjoy about this album is that EVERY element; every synth, every beat, every sample, the mixing, the mastering, etc are all pieces building upon each other towards a central and specific sound. Everything on this album works perfectly together to give it a solid and unique “Witching Hour” sound. I also like how mellow yet fluid this album is. All the tracks have a seemingly slow tempo to them, but the breaks are constantly moving forward and pushing the sound along so that you can never get bored or tired due to a stagnant soundscape. A great album for chilling out and not bad for active listening.

Unfortunately all those same elements serve as this albums downfall as well. Because every track has very nearly the same vibe, they quickly meld into each other and become difficult to distinguish. I was a bit disappointed with the remixes offered here as well. It’s not that they aren’t good, it’s simply that they sound too much like the rest of the album! Honestly when I listen to this album straight through without looking at the titles I can’t even tell when a remix comes on. Oh well. The final track on the album, the ESA remix is pretty well done and different. Maybe it is due to the fact that it is a remix of a song from a different album, but it’s got a more driving hard ebm undercurrent (though it’s quite complex and nothing like ordinary shit ebm) to it which is a nice change from the rest of the album.

Production: 7.5/10
In stark contrast to the rest of the Tympanik Lineup, “The Witching Hour” has a noticeably lo-fi sound. I feel that this works for and against him. It works for him in that it makes his work stand out that much more from his contemporaries (his labelmates) and of course from the rest of ’industrial’ music out there (though that may also be because of his talent). I feel that a huge part of what this album is in its essence is contained in the production and mastering; if it was mastered differently than it would most certainly be something else entirely. The production and mastering is quite good for what it is. Every element is clear in the mix, and the highs and lows are evenly balanced. The bass isn’t super phat or earthshaking, but I think it sits where it does for a reason and it works well in this context. The high end is a little gritty (especially on the high hats) but it’s never abrasive and it gives it an organic and ‘real’ feel. Besides, I like gritty music.

This might work against Displacer a bit though; I don’t feel like everyone appreciates lo-fi-esque stuff and most casual listeners are overly enticed by high end production (even if the music is terrible), so this sound might put people off. Also I feel like the album is a bit thin and hollow overall which causes it to come off as a bit weak at times; also I think it could’ve used a bit more spatial movement to warp my head more.

Artistic Merit: 7/10
I don’t think this is the most unique record out there this year, but since it seems to be marketed to an industrial audience it definitely stands out as being one of the weirder and more interesting releases of the year. This sound has been done before…but it’s nice to hear it again with a fresh face. A fitting release for Tympanik. I’d like to be able to compare it to some of Displacer’s back catalogue but I can’t!

Flow: 9/10
Well, since all the songs are pretty similar sounding and carry about the same vibe they flow incredibly well. I love the downtempo-ness, and I find that it is a great album that one can easily listen to from beginning to end when in the right mood.

Overall: 7.5/10
Overall, “The Witching Hour” is a solid release. Although it is hindered by is its lack of variety and singular mood, it finds much success with strong, cohesive composition and heavy atmosphere. Anyone who is a fan of what Tympanik has been releasing will enjoy it. For me personally, it is a much welcome diversion from the massively boring overflow of industrial crap that’s being released left and right lately. Anyone who has been missing that 90s trip hop sound should love this as well. My only regret is that there wasn’t a more diverse selection of remixes to cover a few other moods. Also, female vocals might have added something cool to this...

-dan barrett

No comments: