L'estasi Dell'oro: Iscariotic Lips / Reverse & Repair

Macro is its usual wonky self on its latest genre-defying twelve-inch, this one a four-tracker by Christopher Ernst under the L'estasi Dell'oro moniker (the Italian term translates into English as ‘The Ecstasy of Gold' and is also the title of an Ennio Morricone composition that's part of his score for Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Always intent on challenging and subverting conventions, the Berlin-based label and its releases never disappoint, and Ernst's is no exception. In essence the twenty-six-minute release features two tracks along with related variations: the opening track “Iscariotic Lips” comes with an a cappella treatment, whereas “Reverse & Repair” is accompanied by a Stefan Goldmann edit.

Without a doubt the EP's prime cut is “Iscariotic Lips” in the way it audaciously pairs a haunting vocal arrangement with a club groove. The wordless vocals—overlapping layers of a male singer's low-throated moan and a female's meditative counterpoint—collectively suggest some mournful lamentation for the dead, while the club groove is a classic combination of pounding kick drums and hi-hats that's significantly strengthened when a funky bass pulse leaps into the fray. I can imagine some might find the two parts to be incongruous when the uptempo groove is so out-of-sync with the slow drawl of the vocalists, but to these ears the effect proves captivating.

In a departure from the norm, Goldmann's edit of “Reverse & Repair” precedes the original, which is almost twice as long. The track proves arresting in the way Ernst beefs up its thudding pulse with aggressive industrial patterns and adds a largely indecipherable spoken word overlay for added aural stimulation. The nine-minute original version trumps the edit, however, by weaving a hypnotic, see-sawing strings detail into its dense arrangement. Not only that, the tune's thunderous groove roils with even greater purpose in the original, making for the EP's most dizzying listen.

If the sequencing of the two “Reverse & Repair” tracks seems odd, the idea of ending the release with a vocals-only version of “Iscariotic Lips” doesn't: with the rhythm elements stripped away, the voices generate an even more haunting, even mesmerizing sound. Who else but Macro would think to close out an EP of club-based material with something so unusual?

April 2014