Anduin: XXVII
SMTG Limited

How to make an impression in an era when music has never been more ubiquitous and plentiful? Jonathan Lee has certainly hit on one sure-fire strategy: present your latest Anduin material in multiple formats and package it all inside a tidy little silkscreened-and-stamped box. In that regard, XXVII includes a twenty-five-minute EP of quintessential Anduin material (four studio pieces and one live track), a photo book containing sixteen colour images, a DVD featuring videos of two EP cuts, and a cassette tape of exclusive live material. Much of the release's content stems from performances conducted at and an installation at the Richmond, Virginia-based Reference Gallery in 2010 (oddly, though, I could find no record of the project's presence at the gallery's site).

On the EP, cryptic found sounds intertwine with musical elements in five settings that would generally fall into the category of dark ambient electronica—had the accompanying visual items not been included in the set, the pieces would still play like perfect soundtracks to a gallery photo exhibit or video installation. The opener “The Voyeur's Wall of Glass” feels at times like Poe's “The Pit and the Pendulum” given sonic life, filled as it is with brooding synth tones but also creaks, footsteps, and distant voices. “We Swallowed the Night,” “The Number Twenty-Seven,” and “Bitter Disapointments Cloud Your Brightest Hopes” are as dark and filled with as much gloomy portent as the opener. “Live at Reference Gallery” is like some disturbing dreamstate given aural form, though it flirts with a more conventional electronica style in its integration of a regulated drum pattern. The cassette offers two heavily textured ambient soundscaping settings, the ten-minute first one simply titled “Anduin in Richmond” and the B-side a live collaboration with Jasper TX and Stephen Vitiello.

The first video “Yellow Station” (accompanied by “The Voyeur's Wall of Glass”) is, yes, a creepy display drenched in the titular colour that focuses on the wax-encrusted contents (nails, broken glass) of an old wooden box located in some decrepit setting. “Red Station” (“The Number Twenty-Seven” accompanies this one) pans across the wooden structures in one of the gallery's installations before a cabinet door is opened and a wax-covered bottle is placed inside to join others (a lone figure, Lee presumably, also disappears inside the cabinet at video's end). In both cases, the narratives are more allusive than explicit, but that's in keeping with the macabre character of the material in general. The videos and booklet photographs overlap in centering on common subject matter. XXVII is also, apparently, available as a download but why anyone would opt for it over the box set is mystifying when the latter is so clearly a collector's item, not to mention a seeming labour of love.

April 2011