Fescal: The Descending Light EP
Its title notwithstanding, Fescal's The Descending Light EP occupies a midway position between EP and full-length. Were the release to include its three-inch disc of Fescal originals only, it would qualify as an EP. The release comes, however, with a second EP featuring five pieces by guest artists, which brings its total time to thirty-eight minutes. One shouldn't make too much of the detail, however: regardless of how it's classified, it's another stellar outing from Fescal (David. S., an English-born composer-musician currently living north of Seoul, South Korea), whose Dronarivm release Two Winter Poems left its own strong impression on this listener only a month or so ago.
The two releases are in certain ways companion volumes. They're both presented in splendid jewelry box-like packages that make well-fitting houses for their three-inch contents. But while the Dronarivm release finds its inspiration in the writings of Alexander Pushkin, The Descending Light presents itself as a study of various atmospheric conditions courtesy of Fescal and guests 1&7, Philippe Lamy, Hummingbear, Yuco, and Gluid. Within the Wist Rec box are two CDs, of course, but also seven cards displaying text (titles, credits, quotations) and photos; there's even a colour slide, which is fixed to the box's die-cut base to allow for easy viewing.
The ambient-drone soundscaping field is a well-populated one, but Fescal carves out his own distinct spot within the genre in the grainy, texturally deep material he painstakingly crafts. The first disc's three tracks, assembled from elements unidentified, drift placidly, like dust-speckled clouds inching across an immense sky through which soft, hazy patches of sunlight occasionally filter. The pulsating middle piece, “Breaking Point,” asserts itself more aggressively than the others, though never so much that the material loses its ambient-drone character, while the extreme processing of musical and textural elements imbues “The Lark Ascending” with an hallucinatory, almost psychedelic quality.
1&7 (The Boats' Craig Tattersall and Steve Oliver) inaugurates disc two's Breaking Point Variations with “Mock Sun,” a tranquil three minutes of muffled piano tinklings smothered in hiss, after which “Shepard's Delight” by Hummingbear (Thomas Johansson) and “Cirostratus” by Yuco (Masayoshi Miyazaki) add a more pronounced melodic dimension to the release's material (even if their crystalline melodies struggle to be heard amidst thick coatings of ambient textures and faint bird sounds). The uplifting closer “Iridecent” by Gluid (Bram van den Oever) is the most conventional piece of the five, given its embrace of melody (vocals even!) and rhythm, but it's no less satisfying for being so. No fool he, Fescal knows that one way to combat the lure of illegal downloading is to make the physical release as attractive a proposition for the consumer as possible. There's little doubt that the hundred available copies of the Wist Rec box will be grabbed up soon, if they're not already gone.