Amorph: Aléas

Pleq: My Life Begins Today

Two recent releases in U-cover's Limited on 155 series find Pleq and Amorph operating very much in the classic ambient-electronica tradition albeit in slightly different ways.

Lionel Raymaekers follows Péripéties, the debut Amorph collection he issued two years ago, with Aléas, an hour-long set of atmospheric electronica. In the twelve-track recording, Raymaekers hardly rewrites the ambient-IDM instruction handbook but nevertheless shows he's more than capable of dishing out satisfying set-pieces teeming with understated Rhodes melodies, clicking beats, synthetic atmospheres, and electronic textures. While some of the album's pieces are of the restrained type, it's the more aggressive ones that make the stronger impression, and it's probably not a coincidence that Raymaekers sequences Aléas so that its tracks gradually effect a transition away from an initial ambient focus to a style that's far grittier. Punchier than many of the album's tracks, “Drift” couples melodic gleam with a tight, bass-prodded beat pulse and sneaks in a subtle dash of acid flavour in the process. The brooding IDM of “Another World” digs in even deeper with a beat thrust that's refreshingly raw and a synth-based attack that often feels more viral than serenading. At the recording's midpoint, the snare's crisp crack and double-time hi-hat pattern give “Till Dawn” welcome oomph. In addition, the album includes multiple examples of textbook IDM (e.g., the crystalline “Only Me”), and, aside from an occasional field recording (Raymaekers trudges through unidentified undergrowth at the start of “Hopes”), Aléas is—or at least sounds like—a resolutely synthetic recording with its primary focus on melodic ambient-IDM.

My Life Begins Today is also a second album but in this case one by Bartosz Dziadosz under the Pleq name (it's also, like Aléas, an hour in duration). For whatever reason, Dziadosz opts for a downtrodden character in his track titles—the opening track is called “Dark Bullet From the Abyss” and the one featuring Aki Tomita's breathy, ethereal vocalizing is titled “The Journey to Pessimism,” for example—and the mood of the songs is often melancholy too. Dziadosz often arranges loops of melodic fragments and textures into lulling settings of five-minute duration. In soothing tracks such as “My Little Story About My Love” and “Raindrop,” simple piano motifs sigh within dense swirls of grainy textures, percussive accents, and programmed beats. The textural dimension of “You Were Wearing Blue While Running Away From Your Life” is arresting all by itself, with scrapes, clangs, clicks, and pops competing for the listener's attention while a ghostly piano melody swims through the cloudy mix. “Someone Like Comes Into Your Life” likewise captures one's ears when Dziadosz scatters cymbal accents of various kinds across the track's ambient haze. By casting his net wider than Raymaekers, Dziadosz ends up producing the more interesting of the two albums. It was a wise move, for example, to include the vocal cuts “The Journey to Pessimism” and “Noisy Stars” (actually a track by Eleni Adamopoulou under the Magnitophono alias that features Pleq as a guest) as doing so gives the album a multi-dimensional feel that extends its scope beyond its clicks'n'cuts-ambient-electronica foundation.

November 2010