Subheim: Approach
Tympanik Audio

VA: Emerging Organisms
Tympanik Audio

Emerging Organisms' twenty-nine tracks of brooding electronic music suggest that Tympanik Audio has its sights set on Hymen's listening audience (in fact, Hymen associates Architect, Nebulo, Kattoo, Ginormous, and Hecq appear on the compilation). It's an auspicious debut for the Illinois-based label and clearly establishes it as a legitimate contender and vital force in the experimental electronic ranks. Elements of industrial, techno, breakcore, drum'n'bass, acid, and hip-hop all intermittently seep into the set's 144 minutes, and help prevent the collection from lapsing into predictability and one-dimensionality. Tour guides like Architrav, Eretsua, Rekt, and Talvekoidik will make you feel as if you've descended into a subterranean labyrinth where decrepit machinery gathers dust, while storms rage outside its dank walls. Longing for resurrection, anguished souls haunt bombed-out cities, while swarming synths, muffled voices, and pummeling beats push their way through gloomy thickets.

Some of the material's heavy in the best sense of the word, such as the pulverizing industrial-funk crunch of Displacer's Architect remix (“Caine in the Brain”) and seething storm of Hidden Forms' Tzolk'in makeover (“Imix”); others are so sonically extreme they verge on nightmarish (Hidden Forms' howling mix of Totakeke's “Power of Ideas”). Expanding on the template slightly, Lucidstatic weighs in with a rabid fusion of techno throb, drum'n'bass, and hip-hop (“Night Vision”). Disc two exchanges the first half's industrial emphasis for an IDM focus that's still hard-edged (e.g., Freeze Etch's “Stalwart,” the symphonic electro-funk of Phylum Sinter's “Shadow Codex”); Flint Glass's “At Takwi” may be anchored by electro-poppy breaks, for example, but it's still smothered in monstrous atmosphere. Scenic stops include Hecq's acid stormer “Moonkissed,” Flaque's banging “Black Shadows in the Fog,” and Displacer's “Witching Hour,” the release's singular foray into crate-digging instrumental hip-hop. Did we mention it's volume one?

In contrast to Emerging Organisms, the emotive electronica style Subheim (Greece-based producer Kostas K.) presents on his debut album Approach has more in common with n5MD than Tympanik Audio. Reminiscent of material by ArcLab, “Ybe 76” and “Away” embed resonant piano melodies within hazier masses of beat throb and reverb. Katja's vocals lend a humanizing presence to three of the nine originals tracks (two remixes flesh out the recording): her singing and a see-sawing violin melody offset the heaviness of plodding beats in “Howl” while the melancholy coda “Voces Perdidas” merges Katja's soft murmur with reverb-drenched piano and deep strings. At disc's end, Mobthrow adds dubstep-like wobble and hypnotic low end punch to “Hollow” before Flaque's “One Step Before the Exit” “reconstruction” intensifies the brooding original's mix of orchestral sweep and surging beats. K.'s polished Approach impresses as a largely downtempo and melancholic affair whose hour-long collection of alluring atmospheres proves hard to resist.

August 2008