Wednesday, 1 December 2010

REVIEW: I†† - The Lesser Keys

The Lesser Keys
The Lesser Keys is a six track ep of undulating dark ambient soundscape explorations from an artist I keep offering up to you, and one which you should be biting in to, released on rapidly up and coming Berkely, California based label Tundra Dubs. Each is a relatively brief excursion into a field of tone experimentation which greater track lengths could have benefited to flesh out each one's nuances. But that's because I'm a patient person. Other people might find the sub-3 minute lengths just enough to get the message clearly from each. I would quite like to have heard these thematically similar pieces melded together to create a more seamless 16 minutes – there's a progression across all of them, a definite sense of moving deeper into the middle of something, then back out again. 

The album title is reference to a 17th Century text on magickal spells and conjurations, written by King Solomon himself, but I find dispensing with the more arcane bacground and workign with this in a realtime, urban environment work even better at instilling a sense of suspense and atmposhere than overlaying it with doomy sorcery.  The album opens with a metallic sucking hum, a rapid pressure drop, to reveal a swirling cable of gently fuzzing static that gives way to D▲RKST▲R; an airier, less dense version of the first that allows an obfuscated glimpse of a beats, dark shapes moving amongst even darker undergrowth. They ripple and expand in such a way that their effect is less a music percussive propulsion and more a visual trick – bodies ghosting about in the peripheries of your vision, indistinct forms scuttling around. Creepy stuff. The third track is the longest, titled Ph▲sing it does just that, slowly unveiling a modulated phaser tone that unfurls into several strands of sound, some high pitched keening tones that fly into the upper reaches of the sonisphere, while others pitch down and rough themselves under a bed of distortion, burying deep into the bass elements of the track, their presence felt thereafter as waves of throbbing push to the surface. This bass throb continues into the next track that piles more distortion on to them, bending them at a harsher angle into a more triangular waveform with peaks and troughs, producing an eerie polyrhythmic ebb and flow. Then comes a snatch of reality, a clear beat, a fracture in the trance and a frightening moment of clarity. A proper song title: Above a Convenience Store. Not just reality here, but mundanity, the true essence of reality. It's the most kinetically active track of the ep, some kind of voice can be heard, there's a semblance of melody forming amongst the shifting rhythms, the beat, bass and shadow clap deflecting back off the curves of the lower registers. The final track, all high pitched at first. Discordant shrieking, burbling, computer chatter. The most absent of humanity in it's hollow coldness, after the comparative heightened passions of the track preceding it, it snatches any sense of hope away in the cruellest of denouements.

There is so much going on in such a short space of time across this album, it's a tiny vignetted frame of a complicated bigger picture that I'm almost tempted to retract my requests for a longer form of it because it works so well. I'm hoping to hear great things in the future from this artist, transcending several genres, carving out a very clearly defined musical environment for themselves and really elaborating on all the themes they touch on here.

Buy it now from Tundra Dub's Bandcamp page for an absurdly cheap $1.99

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