Various Artists – Troum Transformation Tapes: The 20th Anniversary Celebration (1997-2017)

Various Artists – Troum Transformation Tapes: The 20th Anniversary Celebration (1997-2017) 2xCD Transgredient Records 2018

The idea behind this compilation was to gather like-minded artists to help celebrate 20 years of Troum. But rather than being a ‘mere’ remix of existing Troum tracks, contributor were invited to do whatever they like – be it covering, reinterpreting or reprocessing existing Troum sounds. So, while perhaps my first expectations were for a double CD of predominantly drone related material (and while drone does form a backbone of sorts), there is also a rather wide variety of diverse and quite surprising results found on this set. To then speak of contributing artists, this is a stellar line up, including (in alphabetical order): Allseits, Bad Sector, Cisfinitum, Contrstate, Dual, Inade, Marrow C, Martin Bates, Moljebka Pvlse, [Multer], Nadja, O16 vs. Myrrman, QST, Raison D’etre, Reutoff, Tarkatak, Ure Thrall, Vance Orchestra & V.O.S. Thus, with the sheer number or artists on this compilation, it is perhaps more useful to highlight some of the most interesting and divergent pieces on offer, rather than provide a track of track review of all contributions.

Allseits’ track Times functions as an effective warm up for the first disc of the compilation, which features a widescreen, sub-orchestral droning ambience. But things then quickly shift sideways on Contrastate’s track The Silent Fish, which features the distinctive shimmering abstract guitars and post-industrial sounds, while the poetic and impassioned spoken vocals are a trademark element (yet overall the track and lyrical component is far too short). With reference to the contributions from the rather well known Inade and raison d’etre, both tracks are good if not perhaps expected is style and sound (i.e. Inade = archaic cosmic toned ambience and raison d’etre = sacral meditative framed ambience), so functionally do not warrant further detailed analysis here. However, the previously unknown to me Tarkatak delivers an excellent minimalist track of low bass rumble, sparse ritual percussions and ethereal chanted vocals. Nadja also impress with Mirrored In You, a tracking a cyclic loops which builds to quite forceful intensity over its ten-minute span. [Multer] closes the first disc with a subtle and contemplative 15-minute windswept composition of muted sub-orchestral drones and subtle mechanised rhythmic loops for great effect.

Moving on to the second disc, Kapotte Muziek opens with a most surprisingly unexpected swaggering and snappy electronica beat driven track, which gives way to Ure Thrall’s slow morphing, moody and contemplative drone-scape with what sounds to be abstracted shimmer guitars. Equally, the mid paced driving beat driver affair of O16 vs. Myrrman channels a dark underground vein of dance oriented vein, while Dual also deviates from expectation with their low-key piece of sweeping melancholic electronica. Although perhaps within an expected frame of reference, Bad Sector do not disappoint with their technological toned power drones and sub-orchestral melodies, while Ruutoff also excels with their blend of rhythmic loops, throbbing driving beat and minor keys floating melodies. Impressive stuff. Moljebka Pvlse then closes out the second disc and the overall compilation with a minimalist and contemplative forlorn drone work.

Apart from the top notch sonics spread across the two discs, packaging wise, it is presented in 6 panel digi-pack sleeve (complete with jewel-case tray holders for CD which gives a nice solid feel), along with a 16 page booklet with liners notes. All in all a quite impressive set and worthy celebration of Troum’s 20th anniversary.

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Raison D’etre/ Troum – XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience

Raison D’etre/ Troum – XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience CD Transgredient Records 2017

To speak of this collaboration between Troum and Raison D’etre, surely at this point they do not require any sort of detailed introduction. This is their second collaboration CD following De Aeris In Sublunaria Influxu from 2015 and evidently will include a third as part of a trilogy. Having heard the first collaboration, it can be regarded a decent album overall, but a general observation to be made is that it does not really amplify individual strengths, rather tends to reduce them into a more ‘typical’ dark ambient/ drone album. This however is not the case the with XIBIPIIO. In And Out Of Experience, which accordingly to sleeve notes is: “A creation of 9 separate “worlds”, existing only at the moment you immerse into it”. Certainly this is a very succinct way to describe the key strength of this album.

Obviously in approaching this as a collection of individual tracks or musical vignettes, the opening drone oriented track In den Wellen, ein Sehnen demonstrates a greater degree of drive and sonic animation than the first CD.  This sense of drive and movement continues with The Machine Starts to Sign, which features a looped and heavily tribal percussive thrum set against roiling background drones. Also of interest, selected tracks lean more heavily to one or the other projects individual sound, such as on Eigi Einhamr, where the sweepingly bitter-sweet drone-scape is more typical to Troum’s influence, while others such as Hang’-E-Lah has the detectable bleak melancholic edge and contact-mic metallic timbres are more typical of current era Raison D’etre. Dreiklang Aus Äther then charts a careful mid-point between the sound of both projects, including the lush swelling drones of Troum and the sacral ambient elements of Raison D’etre (including sampled and treated choir styled vocals). Late album track Expulsion of the False Self is another sonically animated piece featuring a driving looped bass rhythm, wailing type horn elements and swelling forceful drones and even an accordion thrown in for good measure!

Overall I have found this second collaboration CD from Troum and Raison D’etre to be more immediate in its impact and also perhaps aligns more closely to what I would have hoped or expected from a collaboration between these two heavyweight of the dark ambient and drone underground. While drawing from the sonic palate of both projects, here it amounts to something much more than ‘just’ a merging of their individual sound and approach. The stunningly detailed and multi-layered artwork of the 6-panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation of this very much enjoyed album.

Troum – Mare Morphosis

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Troum – Mare Morphosis CD Transgredient Records 2013

Expectations relating to any project’s artistic output can be an interesting thing. On one hand you might think you have a handle on what a project is about and what a new album may encompass, yet there are also those who manage to transcend such expectations which is clearly to their credit. So enter Troum, an act I have listened to sporadically over the years, without necessarily checking out every new release.  Yet if asked to categorise their sound, I would have said with some degree of certainty that they produce ethereal ambient drone music with a focus on hypnotic trance like soundscapes. So then enter ‘Mare Morphosis’, Troum’s new album, which functions to completely shatter this perception. Whilst base elements adhere to a transcendent ambient drone framework, these however have been substantially augmented with composed sub-orchestral elements and even a strong influence from post-rock music (throughout certain album passages).

The single album length composition commences with a structure of ethereal drones(mid paced minor keyed loops, interlinking in various patterns), which then sees the introduction of a lone maudlin violin melody. Yet the biggest surprise is when without warning the track breaks out with full post rock rhythm section (drumming and bass guitar), as the transcendent mood swells in cyclic fashion with the accompanying drones and rousing violin phrase. From here and with a structure of slow metamorphosis, the track gradually moves through a number of subdued droning passages (which reduce to a minimalistic structure), before building and elevating again, repeating over a number of cycles. Through one of these mid album segments the use of kit drumming returns, but here it is in more of a free-form and loose failing style, offset with a loose almost Middle Eastern style harmony. Likewise the end passage is a stunning example of transcendent swelling harmonic drone ambient which still maintains a partial post-rock sensibility in tone, despite not being driven by any drum/ bass backing (…think Eluvium for suitable reference).

In terms of the overall arc of the album its builds to a number of crescendos through the early and mid-phases of the album, before gradually cycling down towards the end over an overall 51 minute expanse. Given the single track format ‘Mare Morphosis’ presents a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ proposition, by requiring the album to be appreciated in a single span, which could potentially be frustrating if wanting to forward to a particular segment of the album. Yet minor formatting issues aside, by sidestepping all preconceptions, ‘Mare Morphosis’ delivers a complex, animated and fully engaging drone work, one which is far more than incidental background music. Given this album demands focus and attention, it also sees Troum seamlessly incorporating musical influences from outside the regular frame of reference for this type of material.  A rewarding listen.

raison d’etre – Mise en Abyme

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Raison d’etre – Mise en Abyme CD Transgredient Records 2014

Raision d’etre return with a new album some 5 years since the last official full length, and whilst not necessarily deviating greatly from their recognised sound, solo member Peter Anderson is still producing interesting variations on well established themes. This album also sees raison d’etre shifting to a new label following the unfortunate demise of Cold Meat Industry, with Transgredient Records being a side label to the respected Drone Records.

Noting that 2009’s ‘The Stains of Embodied Sacrifice’ articulated a sonic environment of sacral dark ambience, including selected passages which veered towards a jarring post-classical sound, a similar sonic aesthetic has been explored on ‘Mise en Abyme’ (translating to “placed into the abyss”), but here condensed into 4 lengthy compositions (12 to 17 minutes each). ‘Abyssos’ opens the album and could thematically represent the decent into the abyss of one’s own psyche. Dour sub-orchestral synths, windswept drones and metallic scraping textures mark the path and while the mood commences as serene, over its expanse it gradually builds to an intensely peaked crescendo.  The following track ‘Infernous’ clearly implies a heavier visage, which does in fact deviate heavily from anything previously found in raison d’etre’s discography. Towards the middle of this piece micro-tonal grating metallic textures and heavy clanging scrap metal cacophony mark a large portion of the sound (…these sonic elements appear to have been sourced from scrap metal recording sessions, which have in turn been sonically manipulated into vaguely rhythmic effect). Whilst ‘Infernous’ has the potential to jar listeners who are more familiar with the ambient and sacral side of raison detre’s sound, this track clearly seems to be a sonic representation of self-flagellation. Yet with the underscoring elements of wailing quasi-brass horns and sub-orchestral drones, Peter positions these heavier metallic elements squarely within the framework of raison d’etre. ‘Katharos’ then arcs back to more familiar territory of a floating melancholic atmosphere (perhaps acting as a means of catharsis to the heavier grating elements of the ‘Infernos’ which preceded it), here utilising sampled Greek Orthodox chants, swelling sub-orchestral waves, sparse ritual chimes and subtle metallic scraping textures. The final album track ‘Agraphos’ rounds out the album in calmer fashion by gradually building in an upward sweeping trajectory, as if seeking to elevate above the depths and heaviness of earlier album passages. Despite its slightly lighter tonal guise, it is still a track heavily infused with a dark and gloomy mood, again constructed with the Gregorian chants and sweeping soundscapes, sparse chimes/ tolling church bells and a general sonic palate infused with a thumping echoed depth.

Whilst ‘Mise en Abyme’ does not necessarily turn the tables on what has come before, rather it represents yet another step in the continual refinement of raison d’etre’s style. As such Peter (again) effortlessly demonstrates his skill in evoking a sacral dark ambient sound, which very much suits solo appreciation and contemplation and introspection on the part of the listener.