Ionophore: Sinter Pools
Malignant Records

It takes but a few moments for Ionophore to spread its dark ambient wings on Sinter Pools, the recent spawn of multi-instrumentalists Leila Abdul-Rauf, Jan Hendrich, and Ryan Honaker. The trio's sound dovetails seamlessly with that of Malignant Records, an American imprint that since 1994 has been promoting dark ambient, industrial, and power electronics. In this particular case, the album features enough heavy electronic dronescapes to satisfy the prototypical Malignant devotee.

Diseased and decrepit, the title track inaugurates the eight-track collection with woozy horns and wordless vocals by Abdul-Rauf before plunging into the blackest of holes with a crushing slab of metallic noise. Despite the presence of dark undertows, “Infantman” and “Unchecked” flirt with pop song conventions when hushed vocal melodies sung by the San Franciscoan waft comfortably overtop the industrial churn below. During “Sequester,” a seeming choir wails, desperately praying for rescue from some hidden prison, as viral horns bleat out a merciless tattoo.

With Abdul-Rauf's voice a key part of the mix, Ionophore resembles more a haunted gothic-industrial outfit than a dark ambient soundscaping project, even if a healthy amount of the latter constitutes part of the group's persona. Along with the orchestral strings and electronic manipulations that Honaker and Hendrich respectively contribute to the album, a beat pattern surfaces now and then to further normalize the trio's nightmarish sound.

Each setting paints a slightly different picture, if one shrouded in gloom, and manages to do so with dispatch. At a lean thirty-eight minutes, the recording is concise and its presumed goals modest, yet Sinter Pools still manages to make a compelling argument for the Ionophore project in the way each member's contribution enhances the total group sound.

May 2016