Illuminoscillate – Illicit Religion

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Illuminoscillate – Illicit Religion CD Secrets of Giza 2016

Being a couple of years on from the last CD (aka 2013’s ‘Uniform Wall’ – also released on Secrets of Giza – reviewed here), Illuminoscillate have now returned with a new offering.  Although remaining within an expansive dark ambient framework, ‘Illicit Religion’  has taken a step away from the mechanized throb and rhythmic churn of ‘Uniform Wall’ by opting for a droning and flowing approach.  Thematically speaking ‘Illicit Religion’ is said to deal with both the conscious and unconscious mind, whilst the 7 tracks/ 47 minutes form an interlinking whole (as with much dark ambient fare).

Although spanning seven and a half minute, the opener ‘Subliminal’ feels to be an extended intro piece, but does draw the listener in with a slow swirling mass of atonal layered drones. With this track acting as a gradual sonic descent, it leads into ‘Anonomunity’, which contains a fragment of a looped melody which hauntingly weaves through the ritualistic dronescape and in the process cements a meditative and esoteric tinged sound.  A mysterious and spiritual aura is then embedded within ‘Invocation – Sugito Town’, which is both distant and forlorn in feel.  Here the evocative scraping metallic textures (contact mic on sheet metal?) and ritualistic chimes gives rise to a compassion with late era raison d’etre – albeit here it features an Asiatic spiritual tone.  ‘Father of the Flame’ sits as the album’s centrepiece, with it esoteric ebbing and flowing atmospherics and sporadic use of an emotive female Japanese voice for added effect (courtesy of K.Saito). ‘Beneath Swollen Sands’ ratchets up the tension with static riddled drones and although far from being harsh is a forceful composition – a veritable downward spiraling black hole vortex.   Gradually shifting into ‘Blind Flight’, it reveals a track of shimmering, widescreen, barren wasteland ambience where a sparse barely detectable guitar and synth melody flirts within the background.  The final album offering ‘Resignation’ is then one of the shorter album pieces and the most sonically direct with rough pounding static forcefully grinding drones.

Although being paired back and minimalistic when compared to its predecessor, ‘Illicit Religion’ has still captured a sound and tone that blends the organic (field recordings, voices, etc.) and the synthetic (drones, multi-layered sonic treatments etc.) and consequently achieves an engaging and enveloping album.  It is also another seemingly an effortless display of abstracted but sonically engaging dark ambience from this rather critically under-appreciated project.  An album worthy of your attention.

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Abre Ojos / Illuminoscillate – A Place Of Quiet / Circle Of Spit

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Abre Ojos / Illuminoscillate – A Place Of Quiet / Circle Of Spit 7”ep Secrets of Giza 2013

Two of Australia’s purveyors of modular synth driven dark ambience have teamed up for this short and sharp double A side vinyl 7”ep. Given the relative stylistic synergies between the two, hopefully this split will serve to further raise the profile of both projects.

Although the title of Abre Ojos’s piece ‘A Place of Quiet’ might be slightly misleading, it is anything but quiet.  Presenting a piece of partly ritualised, multi-layered dark ambience, it includes shimmering mid ranged pulsar harmonics, sporadic gong tones, crumbling bass thumps and sub-orchestral power drones, all infused with a slight static edge. Whilst this is not significantly far from the established sound of the project, is slightly set apart due to its increased degree of drive and urgency.

‘Circle of Spit’ is Illuminoscillate’s offering and dives head long into a track of grinding black hole ambience which is partially mechanised in tone. Here a subdued percussive pulse is soon engulfed by forceful cyclic waves of sound which multiply in intensity. There is a clear and forceful tonal strength to these galactic synth drones which radiate an inherent power, before the track collapses into oblivion.

With the length limitations imposed by the format, both project manage to articulate a slightly more urgent sound than the abstract and long form works of their album counterparts. And whilst functioning within a similar sonic palette, each project clearly articulates an individual take on the experimental droning dark ambient sound. With a limitation of 100 copies is both an interesting and worthy release.

Abre Ojos – Gates

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Abre Ojos – Gates CD/DVD Secrets of Giza 2013

With a number of releases issued since 2009 (both self-released and on various micro labels), Abre Ojos have now been picked up by the new and emerging American label Secrets of Giza.  This is the same label who have also recently released an album of another fellow Australian/ Melbournian artist Illuminoscillate, so it is positive to see these (currently) obscure acts garnering some much warranted international attention.  Also given that Abre Ojos is a multi-media project at its core, for this release Secrets of Giza have had the admirable idea of releasing ‘Gates’ in both audio and visual form, meaning both facets of the project can be appreciated at the leisure and discretion of the listener / viewer.

From the commencement of the album it is immediately evident that ‘Gates’ inhabits a slightly heavier sound, although still retaining a central focus on the droning partially harmonic dark ambient soundscapes.  This is evidenced on the opening track ‘Falling Suns, Dying Stars’, which contains cacophonous almost death industrial rhythmic elements which intertwines with shimmering drones and abstract treated vocalisations.  ‘Dirt Between Our Toes’ continues this theme with its jagged metallic timbre and an abysmal percussive element, whilst ‘Light on Our Foreheads’ delivers a piece of widescreen cosmic drones, deep tonal textures and whispered vocalisations. Of the 11 album tracks each play out as a variation on established sonics themes, however late album track ‘From Home, From Centre, From Self’ rates a particular mention for its organic percussive tones generated by deep metallic chimes and booming Japanese war drums which are seamlessly blended into the modular synth collage.

‘Gates’ also displays an increased degree of focus which is reflected in the noticeably shorter length of tracks, which range from under 4 minutes to around 6 minutes in length (…whereas the tracks on ‘Häxan’ were more sprawling by spanned between 8 and 13 minutes each).  Yet putting aside an analysis of focus verses sprawl, where Abre Ojos excel is through the display of restraint and the unhurried pacing of the soundscapes.  Effectively the control displayed with the mixing and tonal separation of sonic elements is what makes this such a multifaceted experience – aka the ebb and flow of crystalline drones interweaving with heavier sections of grinding metallic resonance and catatonic bass heavy percussion.

For the visual side of things, the DVD contains the same musical content which is presented with moving imagery to compliment each composition.  Again the visuals form a kaleidoscopic presentation of complex geometric patterns, amorphous organic shapes and swirling washes of colour which are constantly morphing and evolving in unison with the audio tracks.  Occasionally some source video input video is detectable (…including imagery from 2001 A Space Odyssey amongst other random visuals), which are fed through a a variety of visual filters to the point of abstraction.  With a passing comparison to ‘Häxan’, where it utilised a colourful palate for its visuals, on ‘Gates’ the colour hues are generally more subdued, with a darker and more ominous overall mood.

With the release of ‘Gates’ Abre Ojos have presented a consummate musical and visual statement that stands entirely on its own as a purely audio experience, but is also further enhanced with the presented DVD visuals.  Although Abre Ojos clearly deserves a greater profile in the dark ambient underground than they currently have, hopefully ‘Gates’ will be their own gateway release to wider recognition. Clearly a recommended release.

Illuminoscillate – Uniform Wall

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Illuminoscillate – Uniform Wall CD Secrets of Giza 2013

The dark ambient genre is one particular music style that has expanded to such a point where it is simply impossible to hear everything which gets released year on year (…which in some ways is rather similar to the metal genre and its hundreds of sub-genres).  Thus in this context the bigger known record labels are often viewed as the curators of the scene, making it then all the more difficult for more obscure acts (…and labels for that matter) to get noticed.  Given Illuminoscillate are a relatively new Australian dark ambient styled project and Secrets of Giza are a new American label (…this being their second release), clearly both fall into the ‘obscure’ category.  This however will hopefully change based on the quality of ‘Uniform Wall’.

Where Illuminoscillate particularly succeeds is through the presentation of an animated sound palate within a morphing dark ambient framework.  A hazy enveloping miasma provides the overarching atmosphere, where the album’s abstract and slightly mechanical oscillating drones are also underpinned by deep bass rhythmic elements that build to cascading intensity during select segments.  Illuminoscillate’s sound is also driven by the merging of the organic and synthetic, where it appears that field recording elements constitute a large portion of the base sonic input, which are then morphed and manipulated through a (modular?) synthesizer interface.

Two early album tracks ‘City Loop’, with its excellent low mechanized pulse, and the shimmering multi-layered drones of ‘Southern Obedience’, are both quite reminiscent of the molasses like drugged atmosphere of Hazard’s unsung classic album ‘Lech’ – yet when I posed this potential inspiration to Illuminoscillate member Matthew Casey he advised of no prior knowledge of ‘Lech’ (…just a coincidence then).  Mid album track ‘Widow of Fatigue’ presents a more simplistic and subdued track which is built on a series of mechanized loops, while following track ‘Absent Teeth’ pursues deeper abstract drone territory.  Arriving towards the end of the album ‘Late November’ provides a heavier sound, delivering a muted almost death industrial track due it its heavy bass pounding beat and animated electronics with a sharper tonal edge.  This track bleeds into the concluding composition ‘Feeding Procedure’ which erodes into sparse abstract soundscape of low grinding bass and other layers with shimmering tonality, which build to a intense crescendo before ushering the album to its conclusion.

With a slick 6 panel digi-pack presentation, coupled with the strong and focused soundscapes on display, surely ‘Uniform Wall’ should gain some positive attention from wider dark ambient scene. Although project and label currently slot into the ‘obscure’ category, this is definitely worth taking a punt on.