Achrid and Surroundings perpetuate Benbecula's Mineral Series line, a project initiated in December 2005 when the Scottish label issued a box set of thirteen albums containing new works, outtakes, demos, and all manner of flora and fauna. The project's success (it sold out two weeks before the formal release date) has prompted the label to initiate phase two in slightly different manner by releasing one limited-quantity album per month, including these February and March installments by Achrid and talkingmakesnosense respectively.
Achrid (London-based electronic improvisers Michael Wright and Tadanae Fujimura) fills its marvelous disc with microscopically-detailed settings assembled from field elements, samples, and synthesis. The one-time university students of Peter Cusack and David Toop guide listeners through a mercurial, uninterrupted hour of quality sound sculpting with four long tracks in particular allowing the two to really dig in.
“Alpha,” a pastoral soundscape of water sounds, crackle, processed string instruments, voices establishes the rich template immediately, before a melancholy mandolin-like cry drifts over scalpel-sharp machine writhing in “Beta.” Anchored by a simple techno pulse, the first extended piece, “Dinimisc Part 1,” drops with an explosive oomph and then settles into an arresting field of whirring and rumbling textures for twelve minutes. At some moments, the pace cools (“Waffle”) while at others field elements take center stage (“Hanabi”). What most distinguishes Achrid's material is that it's uncompromisingly experimental but not hermetic. Unlike some soundscapers, Wright and Fujimura never 'lose the plot,' as it were, and vanish into alienating self-indulgence (even when a piece lasts for fourteen minutes as does the deeply rippling epic “Dinimisc Part 2”). Even better, their compositions often migrate into throbbing beat-based zones that call to mind the styles of Spezialmaterial's Traject and Solarium (“The Foundry”).
Surroundings by talkingmakesnosense (Dom Dixon) is densely textured too though more pastoral in tone compared to Achrid as well as more guitar-oriented. Delicate sunlit streams of shimmer open the album but, surprisingly, just when one expects a similar meditative ambiance to persist throughout, a rambunctious assemblage of acoustic bass lines, drum splashes, and tonal psychedelia washes over Dixon's guitar haze in “Brushed.” “Temperature Fluctuations” unfurls as a fog-lit, ethereal drone while the Tuvan throat singing-styled hum, clicking noises, and bright picking that constitute “Subtract the Sky” almost imperceptibly escalate in intensity. Generally speaking, any number of the disc's atmospheric settings (“Slow Fog, Ice Cracks,” “Music for the Ghost,” “Blackhill Transmitter”) would sound perfectly at home on any one of the Pop Ambient collections. Though they clearly possess individuating qualities, the equally satisfying Achrid and Surroundings naturally complement one another.