Yair Etziony: 3 Stigmata
Ripe for a big-budget cinematic treatment is science fiction writer Philip K. Dick's The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldridge; if anything, it's strange that a film version of the 1965 dystopian novel hasn't thus far been attempted, given the existence of Ridley Scott's renowned Blade Runner, an adaptation of Dick's 1968 opus Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, not to mention other well-known treatments such as Spielberg's Minority Report and Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall (the two based on the respective short stories “The Minority Report” and “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”).
Like much of Dick's work, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldridge resists easy summarization, but here goes: the story's set in the late-21st century where in the now fully colonized solar system inhabitants stave off boredom by ingesting the drug Can-D and thereby entering an illusory world. Industrialist Palmer Eldritch complicates matters by returning home from a voyage to the Proxima Centauri system with a new drug, Chew-Z, that's so potent it's capable of plunging the world into an eternal state of drug-induced illusion.
Interestingly, Yair Etziony has opted to present 3 Stigmata, his treatment of Dick's novel, in an entirely instrumental form, which means that the sole connection one can establish between the recording and novel lies in its track titles. As it turns out, they do, in fact, allude to key plot points in the story, such that those familiar with the novel will recognize immediately, for example, that the title “Robotic Right Arm, Steel Teeth, Artificial Eyes” refers to the titular stigmata. Further to that, Etziony has tried to distill the character of plot points into sonic form, cases in point the opener, “You Have Been Drafted for Off-World Colonies,” in the way it undergirds foreboding synth textures with a militaristic pulse, and “Meeting on the Moon,” in its evocation of a cold and barren planet.
Even though 3 Stigmata is text-free, Etziony does effectively convey the tonality of the novel. A strong sense of foreboding permeates the material (never more powerfully than during the ominous creep of “Something Happened on Mars”), and the Israel-born producer has used his army of analog synths and devices (Roland SH 101, Roland Juno 6 Modular synth, etc.) to create a brooding soundworld that convincingly evokes a not-too-distant future. Enhancing the recording's spacey feel is an almost total emphasis on deep ambient, with beats refreshingly absent from all but one of the seven settings. On that count, the album's sole misstep is the inclusion of drumming on the closing track, “An Inferior Aspect of a Bigger and Better Sort of God”: rendering the track earthbound, the addition not only excessively normalizes the material, it weakens the overall uniformity of the recording. On the upside, 3 Stigmata is glitch-free, with Etziony instead exploiting the pure tones of analog synthesizers to create a portentous sound portrait teeming with icy timbres and sleek surfaces that both effectively references the past and envisions a sci-fi future.