Syndrome – Floating Veins

31/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Those familiar with Mathieu Vandekerckhove’s work with Amenra will be attuned to the grittier, coarser and rougher sounds of his sludge-metal oeuvre, redolent of a more realised, darker side. Syndrome, his newest and most experimental project, is yet another feather in the peppered cap of Consouling, the excellent Belgian label specialising in all manner of blackened aural magnitude. This time round, however, Vandekerckhove stands apart rather than shoulder to shoulder with his labelmates since Floating Veins is a more ethereal, brighter, and charming foray in the territory of ambient post-rock with only the occasional nod to drone music slotted in for completion.

Consouling says that Floating Veins ‘explores the very boundaries of introspective music’ which, though I’d like to think that introspective music had no boundaries to explore, makes the music sound a little more tame than it actually is. Syndrome succeeds in affecting us with a multi-layered scaffold of sounds stretched across various genres from barbed, wire-thin guitar-led post-rockish freneticity; whirring, buzzing drones with steady, pulse-quickening drums beneath, and air-light, wispy ambience. Vandekerckhove’s exploration into these areas is always presented with beauty and class, blending together successfully any theme employed, whether it be the droning guitar of the title track; the shimmering, post-rock drenched euphony of Project5 or the darker, more sinister industrial feel of the album’s finest moment, Absence.

Floating Veins is an all-rounder which manages to straddle many areas and conquer them convincingly, at least from a technical perspective. The sounds are fantastic, no doubt, but in spite of my playing this repeatedly there is still something lacking for me, some sense of energy, some sense of reality, some sense of ingenuity. These days it’s all too common for many bands to be able to delve into multiple areas and pull them off well, but what Floating Veins lacks, if anything, is the ability to carry and transport you to somewhere else. It just doesn’t. The sounds alone are not enough to elevate this to something greater, it’s as if there’s just no heart there.

Vandekerckhove, for his part, will disagree. It could be something to do with the release’s length, 30 minutes just isn’t long enough to generate the intense, long-burning kind of atmosphere that melodies of these genres demands. It really takes time to be soaked into music of this sort and, at half an hour, it’s over all too quickly, we feel as if the rug has been pulled from under us and there’s been no time to get carried away, whether we wanted to be or not. Make no mistake, Floating Veins is an accomplished piece of work and though it sounds fantastic, it doesn’t feel so – in fact, it doesn’t feel of much at all. There’s a lot that could be done with this project, and maybe next time round Vandekerckhove will be able to nourish Syndrome with the enduring richness of which it is currently starved.

Rating: 3/5

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