Various Artists – Time Ends – A Tribute to J.G Ballard’s Tetralogy Of Transformation

Various Artists – Time Ends – A Tribute to J.G Ballard’s Tetralogy Of Transformation CD The Epicurean 2021

Like many releases on The Epicurean label, they are often notable for their strong conceptual underpinning which is specifically applicable here. As per the promo text: Desiderii Marginis, Troum, Martin Bladh & Karolina Urbaniak and Anemone Tube have gathered to pay homage to the first four novels of British writer J.G. Ballard: The Wind From Nowhere, The Drowned World, The Drought and The Crystal World, which are often seen as disaster novels’. But for those unfamiliar with Ballard’s writings, the opening paragraph of the liners notes then provides adequate context: ‘Collins Dictionary defines “Ballardian” as something that is “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, esp dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes, and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments”.’

With each artist contributing around 20 minutes of material, Desiderii Marginis leads off with The Wind From Nowhere, consisting of minimal orchestral drones, subtle field recordings, swirling arctic blasts, and muted choral vocals late in the track. Bleak and ominous in equal measures, this composition is an example of the sublime dark ambience which has categorised this project over the last decades of activity. The ever-creative Troum follow with two tracks: the first OUTSIDE (Archaic Landscape) has a rougher post-industrial tinged visage than the perhaps the expected ethereal ambient-drone. Here the intense sound is based around layered mechanical loops, insectile chatter and spoken vocals which are muted and semi-buried so as not to be immediately intelligible. The second track IN-SIGHT (Archaic Mind-Scape) is more typical of Troum’s highly evocative drone-scapes, being windswept and contained melodious tones and smatterings of nature-based sounds for good measure. Functioning as the most divergent track and positioned as the centerpiece of the album, The Poison Well is a track by Karolina Urbaniak & Martin Bladh. Sonically it is a minimalist experimental-industrial composition based on detailed loops, drones and musique concrete elements courtesy of Karolina. This then functions as the backing for various spoken passages which are delivered in the immediately recognisable voice of Martin which range from quietly enunciated through to an agitated theatrical delivery. Conceptually the utilised text brings in thematic elements beyond the immediate sphere of Ballard, but which align with Martin’s broader established obsessions. Anemone Tube functions to rounds out the album with three tracks which stylistically arcs back to the sound and tone of the Death Over China, given the notable use of field recordings that have been hewn into heady industrial looped soundscapes and underscored with dour synth textures. While the material also includes controlled mid-toned feedback, swirling minimalist noise, and other subtle droning passages, ultimately the end result is tensile, doom-addled dystopian atmospheres. Yet with little in the way of sonically transcendental tones (which is another usually notable aspect of the project), the featured material is still of a pinnacle level which Anemone Tube regularly achieves.

Coupled with the eighty minutes of music, the cover is accompanied by a detailed essay by Michael Göttert which expands on the album’s concept, as well as containing liner notes detailing the inspiration and approach of each artist, and including Alex Tennigkeit who contributed the striking cover artwork. This functions to further illustrate the conceptual depth on offer which makes this such a sonically and thematically engaging release. Currently, this release is available on CD, while a horrendously delayed double vinyl set is also slated for eventual release in late 2021. As a final comment, at this time of writing this review it was announced that The Epicurean is ceasing operation after a decade of activity. Given the stellar quality of the label’s productions over the years this is extremely disappointing to hear. But as a final release, this album is also a fitting swansong to everything the label has achieved in conceptually elevating what can be delivered within the post-industrial underground. Recommended.

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