Bee Mask – Elegy for Beach Friday

03/07/2011 § 2 Comments

Chris Madak has been involved in Bee Mask since 2003, and has rounded up over ten full length albums and an impressive greater number of singles, EPs and compilations. In between recordings he likes to spend his time designing new pretty cassette tapes for his work and sculpting elaborately illustrative press releases for his music. Elegy for Beach Friday, for instance, has been described as “a dazzling and infinitely dense time capsule of mind-altering Martian sound fields and psychedelic dimension bending”. I get the strong feeling here that Chris is throwing us a curve, especially as his full colour, full print semigloss cardstsock rubberstamped matte white soft polybox-presented Shimmering Braid was described as traversing “new extremes of ghostly bass weight, mind-splitting acoustic illusion, and frostbitten architechtonic contour”. One thing’s for certain, Mr Madak enjoys his adjectives almost as much as his ambience.

Unfortunately, since the e-rise of Heathen Harvest threatening the non-rise of a relaunch, I don’t get to see physical presentations anymore. But I’m sure that Chris has something pretty special lined up for that side of things. Or so I’d like to think. I’ve seen the latest releases through Deception Island looking more pedestrian with blank, crystal transparent cassette tapes enshrining the newer releases, maybe times are getting hard after all. Elegy For Beach Friday, for its part, is not so much a new album though, but a compilation record that drags out of the loft several old recordings, rejigs, remixes, remasters them and seamlessly strings them together on one new release. Mr Madak has reworked a lot of his old unheard material and given it a new lease of life and a new coating with several contemporary twists.

Elegy for Beach Friday is very much a self-contained work of ambience. Here, Madak lays aside most of his drone-based influences and softens things to create a lighter, more ethereal ambient album that relies mainly on genuine instrumentation rather than the watery, thin washes of synthesisers which we’ve all had enough of these days. Utilising guitar, piano, percussion, electronica and tape loops, Elegy has its own definite structure from start to finish. The album presents us with, and drowns us in, its own ambient waves through the use of whole-track crescendos and decrescendos, and uses different effects and instruments to create each. The central point of the album, “Askion Kataskion Lix Tetrax Damnameneus Aision”, is possibly the most intense, with soft drones and canorous synths creating a throbbing undercurrent for some voice-like loops that gasp and moan over the top. The celestial “Book of Stars Vibrating” creates a fitting downturn before the ultra-prolonged “Stop The Night” which sees a full ten minutes of static, shimmering ambience which holds us down and freezes us in place before releasing its grip before the excellent “Scarlet Thread, Golden Cord”.

Even though it skips around various stepping stones in its own stream of ambient drone, Elegy never stays in the same place for too long, which is both to its benefit and its detriment. Ambient is an incredibly difficult genre to make interesting, especially with so many people bloating the underground with their own bedroom-created sonic drivel, and Bee Mask does certainly make Elegy an interesting and textured release. However, the meandering of the album is probably a little too frequent and in my opinion the best ambient or drone works are those which feature a paucity of change between the numbers. Atmosphere is best explored slowly, and as a result I couldn’t help feeling that a lot of the depth had been removed from what could have been a fuller release.

Chris Madak has certainly done a grand job with Elegy, and it’s good to see a whole variety of different things done well in this album. For those who like exploring the different sounds and scents of ambient drone, this will grab your sensors and fail to let go, but for others it may prove a little too much of an aural nomad, scanning different sonic plains without really belonging to any. As such I’m not left with the feeling of completeness or placement that I could be if the subtleties had been probed more fully alongside the ruthless reinvention of the old pieces, pulled kicking and screaming off the tape shelves and brought into the unforgiving light of 2011′s remixes. Elegy For Beach Friday may be one of the better works of ambient I’ve come across recently, but its too unsure of its own identity to carry enough persuasiveness or interest.

Rating: 3.5/5

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