Ascetic

The Citizen Made of Glass
Planet Terror Records

The moment the droning wobble of opening track 'All Flesh Melts' begins, you know you're in for an unsettling ride listening to Ascetic's newest opus The Citizen Made of Glass. Inviting the listener into a deeply troubled trance from the off, this Berlin-based minimal electronic maestro relies so heavily on atmosphere that sometimes you'd be forgiven for forgetting you were listening to an album and not in fact living in a psychological thriller.

After several minutes, the relentless throbbing is embellished with an obvious beat and the core of this album's sound is revealed - deep, disturbing, industrial ambience and bubbling techno soundscapes, giving way to strangely hypnotic and somehow sexy grooves, creating a horrifyingly engaging experience that is terrifying and yet endlessly enticing.

Lying somewhere on the intensity scale between the overtly harsh noise of Ben Frost and the more restrained repetition of Vatican Shadow, Ascetic creates some of the creepiest electronic music put to tape, employing a combination of subtle, lingering noises and an underpinning of heavy, ritualistic bass, never becoming sonically overbearing. Occasionally, the relentlessness of the atmosphere becomes almost too much to bear - the stabbing distortion of 'Throne of Want' scrapes at your ear drums like nails on a chalkboard - but clearly this was never meant to be a comfortable listen. Similarly, the uncanny heart monitor beep on ‘Invocation' provides an element of twisted humanity amongst the otherwise largely mechanical chaos, and only serves to make the glorious horror more real.

Though there are moments which have solid, danceable beats, this is far from a party album, unless your party guests are seeking a depraved journey to the darkest corners of their psyches. That said, if you are willing to take that dark trip, this album is supreme and deeply affecting.

Richard Spencer

Hauntologists

Hauntologists
Hauntologists

This album is like a pattern on the wall. Once played and allowed to merge into our headspace, we find it disappears. The drums, rhythms, hollow tapping sounds - they all become a part of us. Only when something happens - a new layer, a little fill or perhaps even the ending of the track - do we consciously recall the fact we have this album on. It moves like a serpentine ray of energy, and as it enters our hearing, it forms into the particle and settles into our natural biorhythm.

The meditative element of this intimate record means that if we want to be thrilled, if we want the music to move us in any way, we have to allow our mind to be released from the act of listening. Be with the music in your own space and it does its job. By lining thought processes with its delicate but sensual pulses, putting a tingle in every moment with its electronic blipping and all-encompassing reverberations, Hauntologists demonstrates its spectre-like quality.

Worldwide rhythms come at us from every angle as we are dressed with funky bass and tribal patterns, ethnic-sounding pads played in quirky keys, and that driving repetitive sonic staple that holds the mood together. It builds and lifts in funny little ways, then collapses, only to begin the process again, albeit slightly differently. I can’t help but think of my numerous tasks in daily life. This is the flow of things.

I can’t place tracks. I don’t think I want to. In order to find a title name or a bar of preference, I’d need to drop what it is I like about this record. I’d have to pay deep attention. I think in doing so I’d find myself drowning in it. The appeal is in the stepping back.

Having said that, I have been able to pick out major swings from this way to that in the album. It’s a lengthy piece at well over an hour. It begins with the basics, takes a turn to the left with some more intricate and methodical electronica, then it throws us into the tribal outback of wanting to forget the technical, mind-bending outer and lands us once again in the ultimately deeper and exponentially more sensual inner landscape of musical appreciation.

Rowan Blair Colver

Sieben

Lietuva
Redroom Records

Lietuva is the new four-track EP from Sieben, principal project of Sheffield-based violinist Matt Howden. One of an ever-growing number of musicians exploring the fruitful territory between acoustic instruments and electronic production, Matt uses loops, effects and percussive techniques to produce an expansive sound from just one violin and one voice.

On this EP, Howden has allowed himself to break away from pop-length tracks. The first two pieces are both around ten minutes long, in his own words, “[allowing] the melodies and layered vocals to wash over each other, each new wave looping and dissolving the previous”. It's a small change, but the effect is profound. The longer tracks grow organically, new ideas appearing naturally out of each other.

Opening track 'Black Moon Rise Again' rapidly grows from a single, repeated pizzicato note into something surprisingly aggressive and energetic. A looped power chord riff, heavy with overdrive, makes the track almost heavy metal, though with an overarching minimalism, the four words of the title repeated as a mantra.

'Užupis' is more open and delicate. Named after a radical district of Vilnius (the EP's title is the old name for Lithuania), where one in seven people are artists and which self-declared itself an independent state in 1997, the lyrics explore the Bohemian principles on which it was founded, culminating in a powerful chorus of the state's three mottos, "Don't fight / Don't win / Don't surrender." Musically, high melodic ideas drift around each other hypnotically over a gentle percussive beat. This new open-ended style has allowed Howden's creativity space to grow, producing music rich in detail, broad and powerful with the immediacy that comes from improvisation and exploration.

Ben Eckersley

The Black Dog

Neither/Neither
Dust Science Records

At a disco of discernment, somewhere in the gloomy corners of cyberville, a gathering of disgruntled intellectuals and information junkies quibble over the inevitable failures of an open policy internet. Sure, we have our freedom, but now a new problem has arisen. With a platform for absolutely anything, the war for our opinion has been stepped up into the digital age. From all corners of this beautiful planet, the scornful and the bedazzled each take their podium to encourage us to turn a blind eye to the other guy.

One option is to do what we did in the past, and begin policing pages and sites, taking liberties from people for doing what we regard as wrong. This being the same old cycle of repetition that has caused so many problems, the same problems these idea-peddling personalities wish us to blame and subscribe to. The top-down approach doesn’t work and we as a species have proved this time and time again. Crime has never been defeated without complete totalitarian brutality. No-one wants this.

The answer is art. In this case, music has provided a soapbox for the very soundtrack of our frustration, motivation and desire for a better world. Each distinct branding of electronic motif can be found on this record. It tingles within the throb of a deep and dark bass. It encourages listeners from each corner to come together and mingle, discuss and boil everything down to hard and honest fact. The tracks are these facts. They cannot be denied and they sound great. With this motion in place, now we are set to begin this mental process with the continual flux of input we are subjected to. The only way to end this review on notes such as these is to tell you to get the album and make up your own mind.

Rowan Blair Colver