Dif:use: Mandrake
Symbolic Interaction

Dominic Sciajno & Lawrence English: Merola Shoulders

Almost defying belief, Don and Roel Funcken appear in yet another guise, this one called Dif:use, in concert with third member Cor Bolten. The brothers, already familiar to electronic aficionados under the names Funckarma, Quench, Cenik, Cane, and Shadow Huntaz, largely eschew beats in the case of Dif:use, something that may surprise, given how central beat-making is to their work in general (beats do surface in “Padrone” but briefly). Which doesn't mean that Mandrake is devoid of rhythm; there's propulsion for sure, just of a kind that's less straightforwardly delineated than usual. One could describe Dif:use as the Funckens in ambient mode, though naturally it's a viral strain that's refracted by their customarily restless sensibility. Like a huge colossus that metamorphosizes in slow-motion, Mandrake weaves ghostly voices, guitars, synths, organs, strings, and multiple other processed sounds into a delirious and viscous stew for seventy uninterrupted minutes. The production style is dubby, as sounds endlessly echo and ricochet within the mix, and the overall effect rather psychedelic and very trippy (especially on the penultimate “Venous” which sounds like the downest trip imaginable).

In October 2005, Brisbane-based, ROOM40 head Lawrence English and Italian Domenico Sciajno initiated work on a set of four DSP explorations—two long-form pieces framing two shorter—that now comprise Merola Shoulders, so-titled in reference to the Neapolitan singer, Mario Merola, who performed just beyond the studio's location during the recording sessions. Much as one might expect, the album's pieces are episodic, subtly mutating tapestries, with the opener, “Falling Away From the Surface,” fairly representative: fifteen minutes of simmering crackle and fizz, field recordings, muffled voices, prickly textures, eruptions, and insectoid murmur. “On Mirror and Reflection” presents a more animated and aggressive stream of churning industrial machine noise which eventually deflates, allowing the crackle of a dying fire to appear. The softly percolating, aqueous drone “A Frank Discussion of Ruins” is followed by the more intense “Moments Before You Go” which features swirling smears and bruising noise patterns that morph into scrabbly percussive clatter and electrical patterns before dissipating to a ghostly, near-microsound level and then dying out altogether.

January 2008