Triangular Ascension – Leviathan Device

01/09/2011 § Leave a comment

At university I had an unfortunately-named tutor called Professor Pink. A small, awkward, rattish pariah whose manner was tedious and whose lessons even more so. Pink specialised in the philosophy of politics and, since it was a required element of my pseudo-degree, I and a couple of hundred others had the mispleasure of three hours a week in his company. I can’t remember much about those experiences save Pink’s hideous taste in shirtwear and his fascination with Thomas Hobbes’ book Leviathan. In fact, he spouted on about Leviathan so regularly that you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all he’d actually read, managing to coax his slimy way through exam after exam until teaching placement, filling his study with second and third-hand unread philosophy books and passing the baton of his obsession on to indifferent 19 year olds who majoritively dropped it in favour of Sainbury’s soave and sexual encounters with loose, elephantine girls from the North.

Somewhere in the 21st century the worlds of Professor Pink and dark ambient music have collided. Leviathan Device, the first full album from Triangular Ascension, takes Hobbes’ Leviathan as an inspiration and weaves a tale out of it in aural form. It’s more of a process than a story, recounting the idea of a world strewn with social and political upheaval which ends up being cured, cleansed and terraformed by an unexplained device with releases gargantuan quantities of water to literally soak the problems away. In a sense, such a drastic decimation through aquatic means would eradicate but also reinvent. Water is our life-giver after all and Federico Ágreda recognises its power to heal, improve and renew, and this is more of an important theme of the album than the device itself which we know nothing of.

Leviathan Device has no location as such, it’s all about movement: fluidity, change and reinvention. It has a very transient feel which permeates every quarter of its edifice. It’s a highly polished and deep-reaching piece of work, utilising many sounds, efforts, effects and movements: there’s nothing static in its themes, it’s always shifting, trapezing and volleying between one moment to the next. Ágreda uses highly lush, daunting drones and sirens to signal impending catastrophe, machined whirrs and hornetlike buzzings and soft, serene chimes as the album calms into a blissful aftermath towards the end, all underpinned by waterlike bubbling, soft rainfall or crest upon crest of tumbling waves. Yes, it’s yet another ambient work by a black metal artist, but Ágreda’s heart is clearly in the subject matter since the entire work is professionally and convincingly transmitted ensuring plenty of different climates and feelings.

It’s really the activity that plays the biggest anti-hero of the album though. Leviathan Device seems to know exactly what it wants to do, but it does it with a little too much force, too much enthusiasm and gusto so that the album is almost entirely robbed of any finesse or elan it could have had. Ágreda understands the power of water – in cleansing, in purification and as a force of destruction but there’s too much going on for us to concentrate on any of these traits. Ironically the water sounds end up playing something of a background role, a stock part, with a myriad other effects glibly jutting their way into the foreground so that a lot of the time it becomes highly confusing to work out where we’re going next. Leviathan Device is too busy, too desperate to tell us something drastic is going on rather than letting us watch and take in the majesty of its events, so it force-feeds them to us counter-productively at the expense of immediate interest or innovation, giving us no time to digest each segment effectively.

A dark ambient album inspired by Hobbes and dedicated to the grandeur and richness of water certainly sounds like a promising concept, especially when it’s as well-produced as this one. Ágreda takes us through a wild variety of darker aquatic shades, all signalling and signifying instances of warning, pain, fear, serenity and calm through the catalyst of the leviathan device itself. Unfortunately I can’t help feeling that it’s all a little too hung up on its own story rather than just letting itself be what it wants to be. Triangular Ascension certainly succeeds in driving us round a dark and rich aural spectrum, but its one with too many twists, too many contortions, and it becomes tiresome and wearying before long. It’s a tapestry with too many colours; an overseasoned mouthful with underplayed flavours, with more sensation being lost than produced. Instead of trickling sensually over us, Leviathan Device overflows and overloads us with its presence, in spite of being a mostly quenching experience.

Rating: 3.5/5

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