Apoptose – Bannwald

19/02/2012 § Leave a comment

Those unfamiliar with Germany’s Apoptose are missing out on one of the strongest contributors to the dark ambient genre. Normally saturated by the likes of Lustmord and the well-known throng of CMI staples such as Raison d’être and Desiderii Marginis, the meek and modest Apoptose rarely get a look-in at the top end. However, Apoptose are deserving of much more notoriety than they currently receive, chiefly due to the immense amount of focus and variation that goes into each release. Apoptose’s music is not filled with long swathes of dark ambient backwashes, its intention is not to drop you into a ‘dark zone’ and let you meander around for an hour without handing anything else to you. Each album is an exploration on a particular theme, filled with variety, thick ambience, atmosphere, wonder and discovery, all without overboiling the pot. 2010′s “Bannwald” has just appeared here at HH for review, and it’s better late than never for one of the finest works dark ambient has seen in recent years.

“Bannwald” is wholly dedicated to witchcraft, specifically witchcraft and the lore of the forest. The entire album drips with symbolism and references to it, of which it’s important for us to delve into to gain a full understanding of the 50 minutes of music which comprise this release. The word ‘Bannwald’ refers to a specific untouched forested area, a wooded wilderness which is allowed to develop on its own with no interference or influence from human intervention. The Bannwald exists within the Kellerwald [“bare forest” or “charcoal forest”], a low mountainous region in Hesse, central Germany, which is subject to special conservation status. As a result of its conservation, much of the Kellerwald thrives with its own natural life, with ravens, black storks, peregrines and red deer being some of the main inhabitants. But the inner Bannwald seems to take on a life of its own, and being left to evolve as it may, it takes on a certain natural mysticism and sentience. It’s little surprise then, that the literal translation of the word ‘Bannwald’ is “spell forest”.

The photography for the album art is exquisite, evoking the natural mystique of the forest as one might well expect. Even though such imagery is all too common within dark ambient and black metal, there’s something more genuine and apt about its usage here. A detailed examination of the front cover reveals an inverted photograph of a figure with arms outstretched, reflected in a forest lake. But closer scrutiny reveals it to be made of the same rough bark as the trees around it, implying that this being is something born from – and part of – the forest itself, reminding us that we are all part of nature when many of us see ourselves as distinct and separate from it. The artwork reminds us of our impersonal, replaceable nature, our inexclusiveness among the rest of the natural world whilst hinting at the higher spiritual potential lying deadened within so many of us. One of the most striking things about the cover is the stark resemblance the wood-man bears to the humanoid stick figures that appear hanging from trees in the excellent film “The Blair Witch Project”. The similarity seems too striking to be unintentional.

The track names all have a link to the theme of witchcraft or forest folklore. “Die Drei Schwestern” [The Three Witches] is an obvious reference to the trio who control and plague the events of Macbeth. “Hexenring” contains a female vocal chant of the well-known Merry Meet as sung by Liz Crow and Heike Robertson from the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall, England. The way the track begins with the light, upbeat vocals only to gradually slide into a more baleful but melodic ambient piece is a clever and affecting concept. As it progresses, the song makes continued references to the figure of Baba Yaga, a haggish witch from Slavic folkore who lives in the forest and consumes children.

The duo of “Vivian Und Wiebke” and “Berkanas Traum” link to each other rather fittingly. Vivian and Wiebke [the German version of the Norwegian title ‘Vibeke’] were the names of two storms which hit Germany back to back in the Winter of 1990. These storms caused widespread destruction to the forests of Southern Germany, the worst thing about them being they hit almost immediately after one another. The track isn’t a particularly tumultuous affair itself though, and seems to reference the calm between both storms on the 27th and 28th February, a period when most people didn’t know the worst was yet to come. “Berkanas Traum” [Berkana’s Dream] references the rune Berkana, that of feminine energy and rebirth, presumably mentioned here to hint at the rebirth of the forest after the preceding storms. However, it’s vital to note that the Berkana rune is that of the birch tree which, due to their flexible nature, represents youth and fecundity. It was for this particular trait that birchwood was most commonly said to be used by witches for making broomsticks, a concept whose roots lay in fertility rituals where dancers would ride broomsticks through fields, the height of jumping signalling how high the grain should grow in the coming year. Berkana has a far more positive side though, representing new life after death and the bond between mother and infant. Nevertheless, Apoptose’s titling of the track as Berkana’s Dream seems to imply only a hope for rebirth and nourishment, rather than the reality.

While being rich in symbolism, it is the music of Bannwald which is by far its strongest point. It is an album deeply involved in the mysticism and importance of the forest and how it develops its own spiritual life, how witchcraft is a naturally occurring practice springing out from the woods themselves. The album’s sound is rich, melodic and unsettling, with each track having its own personality, strength and signature cadence. By far the greatest of these lie in the excellent “Hexenring”, “Haltet Euch Fern!” and “Ein Jahr Und Ein Tag”, all of which contain the creaking, dense whispers, chants and melodies of the deep woodland dusk. Even though Bannwald bases itself heavily on folklore, it’s still very much a work of sinister dark ambient, but one which concentrates on the darker, minimalistic essences of folk inspired by the blacker domains of creation. It speaks to us and resonates with centuries of ancient traditional knowledge. It is alive as much as nature.

Being involved heavily with the magick of witchcraft and access beyond the veil of worlds, Bannwald seems most appropriate in the time of Samhain and its following darker months, a period in which it really comes into its own. It is the spirit of a deeply dark and natural realm, its authenticity coming across with searing conviction. Bannwald is not only a touching work of dark ambient – but an emotional and beautiful one – something which is sadly rare within the genre. Like Apoptose’s other albums, his deep understanding and attachment to the meaning of his work cedes excellent results, and therefore Bannwald is not only an album, but a timeless sacred rite. With two months of the dark half of the year to go, it’s still the perfect time to appreciate this work. This spirit will then rest before its reawakening next Samhain.

Rating: 5/5

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Ovro – Revisited

05/01/2012 § Leave a comment

I’m not always passionate about albums which have to be rehashed and reformatted, but in the case of Ovro’s “Revisited” an overhaul was vital. A lot of the work on this disc can be found on the CDR “Estrainer”, such a limited release that it’s impossible to find a copy. The term “revisited” doesn’t just apply to some older material in an improved form though, but to a spacial and geographical return as well. Many of the tracks within this album contain field recordings from Ovro’s trip to St Petersburg, jimmied into her trademark style of glitch dark ambient. “Revisited” is an emotional journeying for the petite Fin, both as a reworking of her older music seen dragged into the daylight for a makeover, and an aural scrapbook of her Baltic expeditions.

I first came across Ovro’s work a few years ago through the Horizontal/Vertical EP released under Drone Records. Even though it was put out in the same year as “Revisited”, there is a stark difference in feel between the two releases. “Revisited” has much more centre, much more focus than the H/V EP, which in comparison comes across as an experimental dark ambient orphan, the runt of a drone litter thrown on the “by the same artist” pile and glossed with special packaging. “Revisited” is altogether a greater and more intriguing work. It shows Ovro as a thinking dark ambient artist, one who gives subtle clues to her real interests, real world identities and concerns, all expressed through the mirror of her select aural voice.

One has to be careful with field recordings. In my mind there’s always the question of whether one passively collects ambient sounds or goes looking for them, and the former seems far more genuine. It’s akin to the difference between writing music naturally or intentionally aping your favourite inspirations. Fortunately a lot of the sounds within “Revisited” are incidental rather than overblown, mixed well with the atmosphere and the dark ambient underlay. As usual, Ovro punctuates the music with her usual stuttering and glitching white noise, breaking up the ambience which can so easily wallow in self-stagnation.

The field recordings are the main attraction here, comprising anything from distorted vocal patterns to crowd buzz to snatches of street conversation, but with a professional aptitude Ovro is able to create something intriguing, unsettling and beautiful out of them. Strangely enough, even though the majority of the sounds were collected in Russia, this record has more of a Middle Eastern feel. There are no silken arabesque clichés here though. Even in the closing cadences of the wonderful “Ukok” we feel as if we are an unseen, unwelcome interloper in a private mosque, hazardously listening to something never intended for Western ears. These sounds were meant to pass without remark, but here they are, stolen from their ephemeral timelines and permanently pasted onto our subconscious.

“Revisited” is very much a work of personal intrigue but one which likes to retain anonymity and introspection. It’s more of a showcase than a journey; at no point do we feel as if we are following our mentor around as much as being sporadically map-pointed to various destinations. This unfortunately works to the album’s detriment since there seems to be little cohesion, little meshing of themes, everything is just dropped in and swirled around for effect. We’ll never totally understand the stories behind these sounds, but we can still relate to their emotional gravity. This, perhaps, is the most vital thing being communicated here – we don’t have to physically exist in a location to appreciate its effects. The power and weight of a single sense can be enough, and Ovro is highly capable of demonstrating how.

Rating: 3.5/5

Seetyca – Bleakscapes

04/12/2011 § Leave a comment

“Everyone into dark ambient should be already familiar with the Seetyca project” states the rubric. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Seetyca hadn’t crossed my path until now, but given the extreme amount of this man’s output it’s difficult to believe he was missed at all. Seetyca has been releasing dark ambient records since 2002 and has amassed over fifty as this project alone, not to mention his work in Origami Malebariska, Circle Of Pines and Mœdra. Such high productivity places him way up in the rankings along with artists like Senmuth, and Bleakscapes is one of seven releases his main project has contributed to this year. With such experience you’d be right in considering this album to be a master of its cause, and it is indeed very much that. But Bleaskscapes is an understated, subtle work in the extreme. This is not dark ambient meant to shock, stun or even unsettle, but purely to localise you in a specifically dour environment. It’s the sound of placement, of sentience and of being. It is very much its namesake.

The artwork is slightly clichéd but inoffensive in its execution, featuring an obsidian landscape, shrouded in a chokingly opaque mist. Essentia Mundi have granted only a four page booklet here but hardly more than that is needed. Everything about this release is marginal and stripped down, most of all the music, but inside its moaning air of desolation sits a grander turmoil. Taking the baton from Lustmord’s Heresy, Bleakscapes drops us into a world of hopelessness, desolation and ruin. The seven tracks depict empty locations in which we find ourselves wondering dispiritedly, drifting from one part of non-existence to the next, trapped in an ever-blackening realm of abandonment. Composed in the Winter of 2010, Seetyca has let the essence of the colder climate effect this compostional style, and as a result the album has a bitter, ice-shrill spirit running through it.

If it sounds a little hackneyed, that’s because it is. How many more releases do we need in which we, as listeners, end up in yet another dark realm, kicking about while mists swirl around us and ghostly voices moan in the background underlined by droning hums. It’s overly familiar territory in both senses of the word, but Bleakscapes is a little more organic than we’re used to, using bells, flutes and the Oregan Origo String Quartet to give the music more consciousness. Most of these are put to minimal but effective use, employed sparingly and very much woven into the background. It’s by this force that Seetyca punctuates the ambience, albeit occasionally, along with the low chimes of ritualistic bells, string samples, and voices moaning in torment in the far distance. The main player, and the feature of the music, is indeed its bleakness, symbolised by murmuring drones and ethereal whispers worked into the foreground.

However, in spite of the confidence and competence of its execution, it’s nothing fresh by a long way. Something is changing gradually in dark ambient, with more and more artists beginning to experiment and raise the bar in a genre which has seen little development or progression for a long time. Bleakscapes adheres very much to the classic formula and doesn’t dare to deviate from it at all, staying safely in the comfort of the genre tradition. It’s perfect for enveloping us in the viscosity of its atmosphere, but with so much more on the horizon for this genre we should really be asking for more than this. My fear is that as the underbelly of the style expands into more releases such as these, we’ll see less development, less flair and less risk. It’s high time for the genre to be something greater, and the onus should be on the experienced hands to lead the charge rather than ploughing old furrows.

Rating: 3/5

Adammenon – Nero

30/11/2011 § Leave a comment

After the hugely effective and accomplished EP that was Mortuary Chambers, you could be forgiven for thinking that Adamennon would follow it in a similar vein. That release was, quite simply, a beautiful onyx-black and gravely heavy offering of dark ambience. Especially since the artwork to Nero is so similar, there’s a lot to imply a continuation. Adamennon has never liked overstructuring though, and this time round the dark ambience has been lifted and injected with a plumping of experimentation and sampling. It’s something which doesn’t wholly pay off. Since the early days and the creation of his formative works, the only thing that has been consistent about Adamennon’s albums has been their inconsistency. And once again, that’s the case here.

Adamennon’s work in black ambience and black metal has always had a firm focus on concept contortion and belying genre tradition; he has a fixation with playing with expectation whilst keeping the genres’ traditional conceits. These days, his dark ambient work gets the same treatment, and here he gives us seven tracks in various degrees of experimental ambience using clean guitar riffs and loops, drones and church organs. Even though the ingredients may be promising, the final result unfortunately isn’t. The whole thing is full of disparity; Nero is an experiment rather than a statement, and it actually feels like one. After going through this several times I still get the impression that the music is fumbling blindfold in the dark for some kind of trajectory and purpose. There is no rhythmic pulse of heart, no crystallisation of catharsis. If anything, it’s a jumble of dark ambient clichés, tipped and sorted in the wrong order.

Nero does have its positive moments, the excellent elongated drones of “Gli Ultimi Passi Nel Buio” and the glitches and white noise of “la Lettera Di Asmodeo” are disturbingly effective, but instances such as these are all too seldom. In a way its formulaic, but only by it’s own standards. Most tracks revolve around repeating the same instrumental loop for several minutes and then pasting some stock dark ambient soundbytes over the top. As a result, there’s no feeling, no perturbation and no beautiful dread that one would come to expect: the ‘experimentation’ is nothing avant-garde or fresh, but just something slightly different from what the genre normally engages itself with. Consequently Nero fails at being emotive, or indeed interesting. It’s a work of gesture, born from the right intentions but severely lost in execution.

One thing’s for certain, Adamennon does possess the rite and the capability to make interesting dark ambience at times. Nero shows signs of his passion for darkness and melding it with the beauty and uplift of melody, while helixing the two together in a cluster. But experimentation of this kind only works in piecemeal amounts, while Nero tends to overseason itself with too many elements, too many thoughts in one mind, and the album ends up sounding crowded in a genre built on minimalism. If Adamennon could tone down the repetitiveness and concentrate more on plain, linear feeling, then the road forward would be a more successful one. However, with such saturation as Nero possesses, its depth is not something to be understood as much as forgiven.

Rating: 2/5

The Peoples Republic of Europe – Solipsism

01/10/2011 § Leave a comment

The essence of ‘dark ambient’ is becoming misunderstood. Nowadays artists seem too intent on jumbling unrelated, nondescript eerie sounds into one album, the resultant product being little more than a pastiche of unrealised ideas and underdeveloped forms. The very best dark ambient works are those that put you in a particular place, that make you feel included in a setting, whilst giving allowance for space and exploration along with the music. Dutch power noise project The Peoples Republic of Europe understand this all too well and have taken a break from their expeditions into the realms of harsher sonic scenes by completing a trilogy of pure dark ambient albums. Solipsism comes on the back of Cumulonimbus I and II, released in 2000 and 2005 respectively, and now, six years down the line, the third part drifts into the ambient arena. TPROE prove that an understanding of the flipside is all too crucial to making ambient music and years confidently traversing the power noise world have made this foray into the field of dark ambient all the more effective.

This is very much an understated work. Solipsism’s intention is not to affront, invade or overturn as much as to creep into your aural spectrum and slowly turn it darker. It’s like a slow-breeding virus, a tightening vine or a drifting oil slick that looms into your field of vision but whose magnitude is too colossal to ignore. Cut from the same cloth as the more subtle works of Lustmord or the little-known UK Leviathan and Chinese IHVHLXXII, its static black noise and fluid aural swathes come split from an ever-blackening firmament of hopelessness and desolation, providing the perfect backdrop for a world in moral fallout. But Solipsism is more than just a backdrop: it’s an axis, a centrifuge, a cause. It’s the cloud of enveloping darkness that turns the world sour and breeds sourness in return. It is the might and central constituent of our natural return to expiration through uninterrupted entropy. It is greyness and blackness in sonic format.

But don’t expect much to occur though the 71 minutes of Solipsism’s length. Most of the tracks found herein are long, uninterrupted howls from a black beyond underlined with deep, misty drones and distant roars. Occasionally we’ll hear the hum and repeated click of an abandoned machine churning its way past us, or lost, purgatorised spirits speaking in tongues with forgotten meaning. It’s a very slow-burner indeed, presenting us with long sections of thick, atmospheric emptiness echoing into eternity and stretched-out, ruined halls of vast length leading to an ominous and unknown destination. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether these places, wherever they are, leave us free to wonder their massive landscape or whether we are trapped in a permanent location at the mercy of a rotation of ever-blackening seasons.

TPROE theme the album around secret societies, science fiction and the occult, but apart from the track titles, the true inclusion of these ideas is up to any of us to discern. In “Empty City” we exist under an iron-red cloud holding up a deadened sky as rusted machines whirr and tick about us; in the gargantuan “Carved in Basalt” the might of nature engulfs us in a rumbling, booming display of authority; while in “Chthon” we spiral through a submarine world of disturbing depth and force. Solipsism loves to engulf us in its power – the power of the natural world, the power of man’s avarice for dominance, and the power of emptiness and silence.

Solipsism is an extremely compelling work. There is little melody here, more melancholia, but its strongest asset is its understanding of what a dark ambient album needs to be successful and convincing. It’s a nicely unchallenging work on a direct level, though its long, drawn-out sections of minimal activity may still test a few listeners. Solipsism occurs both underneath us and around us, and like some Gorgan of dark ambient, direct orientation into its centre will fix us to the spot. With a few too many artists mimicking their masters and producing tonnes of unconvincing, incidental overspawn, this modest album crept into the market and is one of the most accurate depictions of what true dark ambient should be like, carrying the same ethos as Nurse With Wound’s excellently effective Soliloquy For Lilith. TPROE clearly know the laws and imports of extremes, and Solipsism is the perfect illustration of their expertise.

Rating: 4/5

Ʌ – Wire Migraine

01/10/2011 § Leave a comment

Up till 2011 witch house had been an incapable subgenre. A cripple, an invalid among the electronic underground. It was a scene built entirely on concept rather than content with hardly any talent in its halls. The fanbase, ironically, tended to agree. Witch house albums were generally badly rated even by supporters. It was clear what we all wanted: a cross between darkwave, dark ambient and the US chopped and screwed scene, the main problem was that no-one seemed to be any good at it. Most albums had ridiculous titles and imagery, and most witch house bands had strings of symbols for names. The whole thing was – quite literally – a joke. Highly-regarded bands like White Ring, Mater Susperior Vision, oOoOO and Salem got close to producing decent material but never went the distance. There was just no consistency, no heart in a music form whose genesis was construct rather than character.

Xavier Valentine seems to have seen these shortcomings and made a concerted effort to do something about it. Wire Migraine, the first full album from his Ʌ [Aarrcc] project, dispenses with the problems and prefabrications of the scene through staying firmly embedded in the soil of darkwave. It’s an album full of variety and flux but which never loses its own thread. It knows exactly what it wants and never wavers from its cause. It is a serious, palpable entity built on turmoil, trust and feeling, and it oozes quality from the opening notes. Throughout its twelve tracks we’re taken on a run of blissfully pained ambience; heavy, resonating EBM-like pulses; beautiful, melodious chillwave and dark gothic undertones all fronted by Xavier’s distorted vocal presence. And the whole thing never drops the ball for a moment. It is a monolith to the fabled consistency which the scene was so aridly gasping for previously.

Even though Wire Migraine consists of twelve songs, upon download you’ll find that the whole thing comes through as one track. This is doubtlessly intentional since the album is sinuously threaded together, each song bleeding and melting into the next. It is a work of wholesomeness and completion, its constituents are meant to stay uniform, not orphaned. And the segues are beautifully done, sometimes harshly and sometimes subtly. It can be the heavy bass drop into a faster number that will herald the change of track or sometimes just the humble drop into a new key from semitone to semitone. Wire Migraine is as much about achievement through subtlety as through excess.

Moments after hitting the play button it becomes apparent that we’re in for something special, that we are in the presence of a genuine artist rather than someone dubbing themselves as such for the notoriety. “Gunnell” opens the album with a staggeringly beautiful ambient track. No clichéd synths here, just echoing, gasped vocals swirling around a simple, minimalist piano track as single notes bounce us of from the distance, each one hitting with meaning and feeling. There is nothing incidental to this, we are already in a new realm, a dark underworld hollowed out through solace and lost essences. Things pick up for the excellent “Nothing” with it’s pounding, punctuating bassline and then rise to a disturbing crescendo at “Revenge City”, possibly the harshest track on the album with painfully distorted vocals. But even in these harsh moments, Valentine is able to retain an air of melody, an air of humanity, and as listeners we feel a natural empathy. These are not self-indulgent screams meant to affront us, but to communicate, to share and complete. In the varying emotions set out through the album it’s hard not to relate or to feel a familiarity with what’s on show.

“Hallowed House” in one of the album’s best moments comprising an ethereal, haunting ambient backing track with spoken vocals hammered into the foreground. Hearing a rap on a witch house album is almost as ridiculous as on a darkwave or goth one, but Valentine takes the chance here and it works astoundingly well. “Hallowed House” is, in a way, the album’s crowning moment: it shows Aarrcc as unafraid to take risks, certain of its own core and drive, pulling areas from other genres and moulding them beautifully to fit its own needs while giving us new perspectives and experiences. The album then ebbs into the harsher, more upbeat but melancholy Ambulance Muscle before dropping into the title track which serves as a wonderfully atmospheric finale.

Wire Migraine is an astounding achievement. It an album born fully from organic feeling and being. Nothing is forced. Everything about it, from it’s dripping, liquid ambient moments to its coarser, more disturbing clarion beats, is completely natural, convincing and lifelike. It is an album illustrated by an internal palette of pain, solace and sensuality, communicating each with beauty and honesty. Since the beginnings of witch house back in 2009, it’s sad that it took so long for the subgenre to come out with anything decent, but now that it has, it will take a while to top this. Wire Migraine should be seen as the hauling pin of the art form, one which other artists can look to for their own benchmark of quality. With a second album already in the works for release this Autumn, Aarrcc has his work cut out in binding this unstuck rabble.

Rating: 5/5

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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