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A Magazine for Sheffield

Voices from the Lake

The second full-length album from Berlin's Prologue Records lands in January and as followers of the labels output might expect, it's a fairly intense and immersive listen. A hypnotic record of ambient music that nevertheless maintains a steady heartbeat of techno throughout, it is a record that has to be listened to as a whole, the tracks melding into one another to such an extent that I often had to check back to see whereabouts I was in the track listing. This is no bad thing, but more an enjoyable pointer towards the embryonic roots of this record in a live performance delivered last year in Japan.

So how does one review a record that has no obvious defining moments or even strictly discernible tracks? I haven't quite worked it out yet but referring to specific tracks simply as pointers as to where we are in the sonic progress of the record as a whole is how I plan to proceed. I'll begin at the beginning I suppose.

'Iyo' is the album's opener. Field recordings of running water are poised nicely at the centre of a stereo field whilr echoing, syncopated beats dance to your left and right. At first they play loosely around the beat, but slowly become anchored around a simple bouncing acid bassline which heaves in waves of intensity with the ebb and flow of acid techno harmonics. All of a sudden we're nearing ten minutes into the record and barely notice the glitchy jumping kick drum that leads into the rhythm changes of 'Vega' and 'Manuvex', which slowly build with the addition of toms and more frenetic rhythms before the first full key change of the album builds out of the tuned percussion and slow crescendo of droning pads of 'Circle'. This leads into the record's first climax as melody appears in the fifth track in the form of a beautifully soft synth that wouldn't be out of place on Selected Ambient Works.

Eventually this dissolves into the more tribal percussion and ammelodic textures of the album's second half, pads shimmering over tabla rhythms and increasingly solid four-to-the-floor kicks. The hypnotic traditions of the Indian subcontinent have been as abused by ambient music as those of Africa have been in harder dance genres, but here they get a subtle airing, backed up with immaculate sound design before a pair of 'Virgo' tracks reintroduce stronger hints of melody and the beats return to a more traditional techno style, despite being soaked in enough reverb to make them sound like Robert Hood underwater. Eventually the kicks relent and as we go into the last two tracks the percussion again reduces itself to glitches and the odd tuned kick, referencing back to the album's opening, before slowly dissipating into lilting processed vocals that fade away in soft conclusion.

This record certainly isn't for everyone, but for those who enjoy fully immersive music and listen to it in the right setting, alone, it may become a treasure.