Idlefon: Intensive Collectivity Known As City
Refined ambient-electronic music production knows no borders, something clearly borne out by respective new releases on Tympanik Audio by Tangent, a Netherlands outfit featuring drummer/sound designer Ralph van Reijendam and vocalist/sound engineer Robbert Kok, and Idlefon, the alias adopted by Tehran, Iran-based computer musician/sound artist Hesam Ohadi.
Transience, Tangent's follow-up to 2013's 1mk2, sees the Dutch duo presenting the listener with an evocative, sixty-five-minute travelogue that plays like some imaginary sound portrait of a civilization's collapse and rebirth. In the early stages of the recording, there's a dark tone to the material that conjures images of smoldering ruins and decimated landscapes, as well as an industrial undercurrent that suggests a failed vision of progress, but the mood lifts near the half-way mark. The duo gives great attention to the textural make-up of a given piece in overlaying curdling beatwork with symphonic washes and detailed electronic moodsculpting, resulting in brooding set-pieces of powerfully evocative character. Though identifiable sounds at times emerge from the mix (acoustic and electric piano, field recordings, etc.), Tangent's focus is on the whole rather than parts; in other words, it's the entire make-up of a given piece that is the duo's primary concern, and sounds only matter in terms of the effect they have upon the overall arrangement.
The air is sometimes so thick with dust and grime, the view is obscured by the multiple layers that accumulate so suffocatingly. But as despairing as some tracks on Transience might be, others hint that there's room for hope. Rising from the smothering ashes of “Shattered,” “Expanding Horizons,” for example, allows some semblance of light to filter into its post-apocalyptic design, while faint traces of children's voices suggest the promise of new life during the contemplative moodpiece “Discovery.” “Radiating Singularity” less radiates singularity than energy, as if to suggest that the industrial activity present is being used in the service of reconstruction; in similar manner, the very track titles “Bloom” and “Reformed Construction” intimate positive developments of a similar kind. In terms of volume and dynamics, Transience isn't an overbearing collection, even if there are a few aggressive moments here and there. In fact it's the quieter pieces such as “Discovery” and “Reformed Construction,” however, that speak most strongly on behalf of Tangent's artistry on this slightly overlong outing by the Dutch outfit.
Intensive Collectivity Known As City—effectively timed at forty-nine minutes—is perhaps an even more evocative sound portrait than Transience. Ohadi's debut Idlefon album for the Tympanik label threads voices, electronics, beats, and textures into an ambient-IDM collection that teems with suggestive detail. In keeping with the album's title, the myriad activities associated with everyday urban life are evoked by the eleven tracks, and contrasts in style, dynamics, and mood are plentiful.
Fragments of speaking voices babble through “Where Voices Vanish,” creating an ethereal effect consistent with the foggy ambiance of the mysterious zone conjured by the instrumental elements. Glitch-ridden machine beats drape their scabbed patterns across the light-fading swirl of “FairLight,” and there's an ominous quality to the tones and washes of “Reminiscence” that suggests the memories in question are more disturbing than cheering. Anything but anemic, the recording surges with life in the tracks where robust beat patterns appear. Cases in point, “Intensive Collectivity” exudes a noticeably positive spirit when its whistling light streams and exhaling washes are augmented by a percolating pulse, and “Ikigami” receives a boost from the inclusion of a punchy, hip-hop-inflected beat pattern.
Intensive Collectivity Known As City settles into classic electronica mode on a number of pieces, “Of Rust” and “Pretend it's Spring” (featuring Siavash Amini) among them, before exiting on a vaporous cloud of ambient serenity in “Pickers of Empty Cocoons” (featuring Nima Pourkarimi). In contrast to the travelogue impression created by the uninterrupted tracks on Transience, Intensive Collectivity Known As City presents eleven distinct settings that come across as individual portraits of varying phenomena within an imagined cityscape. That it does so makes it no less effective than the Tangent recording, just one that's different in kind.