Anklebiter: I Will Wait
Tympanik Audio's releases have been characterized as ‘dark electronica' but ‘Gothic electronica' seems a better fit—at least insofar as these three recent releases are concerned. And that shouldn't be interpreted to mean Gothic in any modern, Cure-related sense but more in the classic one of Victorian atmosphere. In all likelihood SE, Undermathic, and Anklebiter use the requisite high-end gear to create their material, yet there remains an indelible air of dank undergound corridors and hidden chambers about their tracks. One could easily imagine any of the three artists creating music to a live screening of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari or a new soundtrack to James Whale's 1931 Frankenstein.
L36, Sebastian Ehmke's SE follow-up to his Tympanik Audio debut album Epiphora, documents the producer's continuing growth as a composer and arranger. Integrating elements of ambient, post-rock, electronica, and even shades of classical musics into a personalized hybrid, the hour-long L36 registers as an oft-graceful collection that comes across as refined without losing the raw edge that's a hallmark of Tympanik Audio releases. Rather than fraying one's nerves, the tracks' lush atmospheres typically induce a state of calm (“Lily” isn't just contemplative but downright pretty—not the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the label), though a sense of foreboding still lurks close to the surface (perhaps most explicitly heard during Subheim's “Mimikry” remix). Following a suitably brooding overture (“Chrono”), L36 wades into a rather Lusine-styled treatment (“Stadium”) where Ehmke weaves electric guitar and synthesizer patterns into a dreamy, gently uprising whole, the tune's refreshingly restrained attack indicative of the album in general. Symphonic strings and glitchy beats intertwine to lulling effect during “36 HERtZ,” while “Beton” offers a sampling of piano-based downtempo and “Strom” a ponderous slow-burn of chiming guitar figures and seething electronics. Emblematic of the album's range, “F-Sand-036” begins as a beatific example of Eno-inflected ambient soundsculpting before moving into a midtempo post-rock episode that's so motorik it could pass for krautrock.
Poland native Maciej Paszkiewicz serves up his own intoxicating brand of atmospheric moodscaping on his Undermathic debut for Tympanik Audio, Return To Childhood. While the promo sheet's claim that the album presents “a genuine preview of the future of intelligent electronic music” is overblown, there's no denying that the album is forceful and accomplished. Paszkiewicz began creating electronic music in 1999 and subsequently issued two full-lengths under the pseudonym Head (Neutrality, 10:10PM) so he obviously brings an experienced hand to the material. His heavy Undermathic moodscaping often surrounds plaintive piano melodies with dazzling swirls of electronic textures and synthetic patterns, resulting in tracks that are equally multi-layered and atmospheric (e.g., “Independence,” “Understanding,” “TTAGGG”). That aforesaid gothic character emerges noticeably during “Try Again” when a choir intones wordlessly alongside industrial-machine rhythms and during the downtrodden, crackle-drenched melodramatics of “Everything Too Late.” One of the things that distinguishes Paszkiewicz's Undermathic project is simply how distinctive it sometimes sounds. An anvil's seeming clank gives rhythmic thrust to “Lighthouse,” its bright ping audible despite the torrent of grinding textures and patterns that otherwise dominates. Return To Childhood is anything but ambient music, as relentlessly pounding settings such as “Submissive Woman” and “Entropy” make clear. Heady as well is “People Pass Each Other” which embeds delicate piano melodies within hammering backgrounds that roar so determinedly they're almost dizzying.Get past the rather silly Anklebiter name and you'll find the polished hour-long collection I Will Wait, the debut Tympanik Audio full-length by Tanner Volz. The Portland, Oregon-based artist likewise brings a good many years of experience to his project, having toiled during the early-‘90s in the post-Industrial band Thine Eyes and thereafter issued material under the ML name on labels such as Toast and Jam, n5MD, En:peg, and Piehead Recordings. The Anklebiter project apparently arose when Tanner, recovering from an illness, produced the album's tracks on a laptop while chairbound. There's certainly nothing lightweight or sickly about the dozen pieces, which are pretty much top-notch from start to finish. “Absolution is a Plush Toy” sets the tone via dramatic industrial beatscaping and grandiose synthesizer and piano melodies. “Accessible” plunges headlong into deep electronica waters where programmed beats mingle with melancholy synthesizer melodies and textural flourishes, “I Will Wait” melds its loping rhythms and analog synth-pop dramatics into a mini-epic of gothic drama, and driving battle-march rhythms and writhing electronic squeals intensify the turbulent character of “O'Bannon.” Lush melodic settings (“Thanks, Deepak,” “Nothing Will Happen Tomorrow”), analog synth-driven funk (“132”), and hypnotic head-nod (“Step Out”) all appear too. No one'll mistake I Will Wait for wallflower music, even if the material is more thunderous in terms of atmospheric portent than on sonic grounds (there are exceptions, as the rather indelicately named throbber “Hawk is Tits” and epic closer “Frigid” show). Grandiose IDM-industrial soundscaping is the target, and for the most part Volz has created an instrumental collection of notable craft and emotional richness that has roots in industrial, analog IDM, and dark electronica forms.