Mark Harris & JOHN 3:16: Victory Over The Sun
Little Crackd Rabbit Records

Here's a collaboration that happened in the way such projects should: naturally and organically. Mutual admirers of each other's work, West Midlands-based ambient-electronic producer Mark Harris and Philadelphia resident Philippe Gerber, aka JOHN 3:16 and one-time Heat From A Dead Star frontman, began by exchanging live improvisations without any expectations necessarily about where things would lead. Each party then re-shaped what the other had sent, tweaking it in a manner consistent with his sensibilities and expertise. Over the course of a year of such interactions, an album-length entity evolved, one that both reflects the personalities of those involved yet at the same time is something neither would have produced alone.

Perfectly tailored for a vinyl presentation (even though the formats in question are download and CD), the album's five tracks weigh in at a concise forty-minutes. Emerging from ambient mist, the title track inaugurates the recording with long, shimmering undulations of steel-encrusted textures; percolations punctuate the dense fog mass like flickering lights until the material expands into a huge industrial cloud, the intensity pitched at the level of shoegaze even if the material hews stylistically to ambient. During “Dead Stars,” tremolo guitar effects merge with sweeping ambient waves, the combination conjuring the achromatic image of a desolate beachside smothered in darkness by threatening storm clouds, while guitar atmospherics imbue the serenity of “Requiem For the Lost” with a suitably plaintive and reverential tone. In terms of dynamics, Harris and Gerber keep things at a fairly even keel for the most part, until, that is, scabrous shards of metal send “The Angry Moon” into the kind of territory inhabited by thisquietarmy and others of similar ilk. The album concludes on a rather heavier note, too, when “Vortex” adds plodding drums to its raw, guitar-wailing slowburn to cap the recording with an instructional lesson in controlled cacophony.

Though these days there's no shortage of ambient soundscaping albums to choose from, Victory Over the Sun truly does stand out as an especially impressive creation. The care and craft its creators brought to the project's material is evident from beginning to end, resulting in an album that to these ears could qualify as a near perfect model for the genre.

October 2016