Yair Etziony: Baltia
Yair Etziony is certainly not lazy; if anything, a better word to describe him would be omnivorous, given the wide range of his interests. In the years since his debut album album Flawed appeared in 2007 on the Tokyo-based Spekk label, the Israeli musician has, among other things, established the False Industries label and issued material as a member of Farthest South, with Spheres & Constellations, a thirty-four-minute space-drone, the most recent expression by the psych-improv band. Etziony's current preoccupation is with Misty Corners, a techno-styled project comprising three albums, with the now-available first, Baltia, scheduled to be followed by Delphi and Albion later in 2014.
Etziony's no techno poseur, by the way, even if his path has taken him into other zones in recent years. He was, in fact, for many years a DJ who played deep techno, and Baltia thus represents for him a thoughtful examination of those past endeavors and his feelings about them in retrospect; so if Baltia is designed to examine his past, Delphi and Albion will naturally do the same for the present and future. One more thing: Baltia is a mythological setting mentioned in ancient Greek writings, an island that's situated somewhere between Prussia and Jutland and close to the Baltic Sea.
The sixty-four-minute set is more than bass lines and driving techno beats, no matter how much the two form the backbone of the album's eight tracks (those meaty bass lines, by the way, originated from a Fender Precision Bass). Analog synths, field recordings and loops are heavily drawn upon, and delay and reverb effects contribute greatly to the music's textural shimmer. As the album progresses, it becomes clear that Etziony's techno has more in common with the sleek futurism of a Jeff Mills than something rawer—even if there's a healthy amount of dystopic grit and grime in Baltia's music, too (see “Elektris”). Throughout the album, gloomy industrial atmospheres (“Agape,” “Polis”) or spacey synth drones (“Axierastos”) are joined by skeletal beat patterns—hi-hats and kick drums only—and bone-dry bass lines, with occasional percussive detail added for ornamentation. The beats sometimes drop out for a stretch, which helps make the recording seem like something more than a single-minded 4/4 onslaught. Perhaps the album's biggest departure arrives at the end when “Dueteros” rolls out a thick tangle of wiry sequencer patterns as part of its motorik armature.
The engaging collection suggests a fragile balance struck between opposites—body and soul, darkness and light, nature and machine, hope and despair, earth and sky—you get the idea. It'll obviously be interesting when the time comes to listen to Baltia in the context of Delphi and Albion and to consider, hermeneutically speaking, how our impression of it changes as a result.