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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Siamgda - "Tremors"

Artist: Siamgda
Album: Tremors
Year: 2014
Label: Ant Zen
Genre: Tribal
Website: www.ant-zen.com

Siamdga has an interesting story. It is the project of Marc Fischer who lives (lived?) in Nepal and studies Indian classical music. He combines traditional music & instruments, namely the tabla, with electronic and industrial music. As a lover of tribal and ethnic/world influenced industrial music, I was very intrigued by this project. Unfortunately, it did not deliver.

Let me start by saying that on the upside this album features some really great and genuine tribal elements. Siamgda utilizes compelling drumming and fitting vocal samples. The core elements used are rather good and have a lot of potential, however the album is ultimately a huge let down. Even as a staunch lover of tribal industrial, I can't get into this. The two major issues are 1. The lack of songwriting and 2. Bad production. The issue with song writing is that it does not feel like there is any. All of these tracks feel like simple sketches without any development on whatever idea they are pursuing. They are mostly unchanging loops of the same thing repeated for the entire song with very few change ups or additional sounds added to the mix. In many ways it reminds me of Muslimguaze - the lo-fi atmosphere, the simplistic composition, the live feel; except that MG had the excuse of creating his material 20-30 years ago with far worse technology. The production on Tremors is, to put it bluntly, really quite bad. Many of the elements are muddy and it becomes hard to discern exactly what is going on in any given piece. The spectrum is generally unbalanced as well, with almost all the content inhabiting the mid range and very little low or high frequency material (i.e. there is no driving kick drum or anything) - this causes the music to be both sloppy and annoying to the ear. Like Muslimgauze, this sounds like it was created 30 years ago, except without any of the "good" qualities that people are looking for in that kind of aged sound - instead it just sounds very amateur, like the guy has no idea how to properly record or mix music. Now, maybe there is some sort of legitimacy to these tracks because they display a level of pure ethnic music, or maybe these patterns are musically significant to classic Nepalese music; either way it makes no difference because it is not enjoyable to listen to.
The problems with the album are evident immediately from Track 1. The intro track is a spoken word teaching accompanied by a drone; however the vocals are processed in such a way that makes them sound garbled and hard to understand, and the backing texture just plays the same thing for the entire 5 minutes, causing the track to drone on and on, feeling incredibly long and pointless (completely destroying the intended purpose of having people listen to & take in this wisdom). Now, I am all for some poignant spoken word, but the musician must remember that their material needs to be entertaining first and foremost, and as such they must write the track in such a way that the backing audio material is captivating and the voice is clear & sucks the listener in. Anyway, that's pretty much how the rest of the album goes - repetitive ideas that don't develop or take off and bore the listener instead of engaging them in or transporting them to another world. As mentioned, this is mostly comprised of tribal drumming and vocal samples, although there are bits of warbling synth (ex. "Tremors") and the occasional bit of a sort of poor man's attempt at the ant zen noise/crunch (ex. "Oracle"), but neither add anything to their respective song and kind of feel out of place alongside the drumming and instrumentation.

Honestly, I'm pretty disappointed that Ant Zen would release this after giving the world some of the absolute best tribal industrial acts of all time including This Morn Omina and Tzolk'in. Now, like I mentioned above, there are some good and, dare I say, great elements within this music. These could be utilized to incredible result if put in the hands of a decent songsmith - for example, if TMO was given this source material the result would be colossal. My suggestion is that Siamdga focuses on improving songwriting / structure / progression and learning how to craft a track with depth that goes somewhere, rather than just loops indefinitely. I can't see myself ever listening to this again. I guess if the idea of a worse Nin Kuji interests you than give it a shot, otherwise avoid.  For this kind of sound I'd instead recommend checking out the excellent Tibetan influenced project Svasti-Ayanam (side project of Raison d'etre) which I feel captures that dark, ancient, authentic tribal sound much better than Tremors, or the most recent releases from Tzolk'in, The Sixth Sun, or Ah Cama-Sotz, Obsession Diabolique, both albums that make use of traditional tribal percussion with absolutely visionary, mystifying results.

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