Aemae: The Helical Word

Two years in the making, Brandon Nickell's Aemae (pronounced 'ah mah') debut The Helical Word is formally described as “a pure exercise in synthesis without the use of field recordings, vocals, or samples” but might more plainly be characterized as a sumptuous, hour-long collection of dark, alien dronescapes. Churning clusters of steely smears, knife-edged shudders, and hazy sheets of grime slowly unfurl throughout. In “41667,” chimes struggle to emerge from the center of a haunted mass before being wholly smothered by ever-thickening clusters of industrial grime while, in “The Helical Word,” noises seethe like a disturbed nest of hornets. While Nickell's sound palette tends towards the abstract, gamelan pulses do stream throughout “Translucent Tongues” (even if they're almost submerged by Autechrian writhings). Quieter settings of spacey tinkles and electronic transmissions (“Cryptocrystalline,” “End Sentinel”) offer contrast to the aggressive “Qaadah” whose convulsive whirrs and rumbles escalate into a droning mass of ringing bell tones and muffled pounds. Because the piece builds incrementally over twelve minutes, one becomes acclimated to the sound, so much so that the silence that abruptly appears when the piece suddenly stops is jarring.

October 2005