Ensemble Economique: Crossing the Pass, By Torchlight

Crossing The Pass By Torchlight offers six tracks of deep astral traveling with Ensemble Economique (aka Brian Pyle of Starving Weirdos and RV Paintings) as your guide. The tracks are typically underpinned by drum patterns and overlaid with a plethora of keyboard and guitar melodies and textures, resulting in widescreen excursions that fit perhaps most comfortably into the psychedelic-drone genre.

Accompanied on the journey by Nudge's Brian Foote (who contributes 808 to the piece), “Heat Waves” pulsates and howls as it carves a strangulated path through the upper reaches of space and comes maybe a little too close to the sun in the process. Thankfully, the midtempo funk of the drum machine patterns lends stability to the track's otherwise wayward melodic convulsions. “Vanishing Point” is less frenetic by comparison, though it still exudes a trippiness emblematic of synthesizer-based music, while “To Feel the Night as it Really is” unspools in a manner so melancholy and forlorn it might even be called downtrodden. Side two opens arrestingly with the aggressive punctuations and echo effects of “Everything I Have, I Give to You,” after which “Sparks Exploding, Splintering Blackness” weaves martial electronic rhythm patterns and woozy synth melodies into a cosmic bonfire. At album's end, “Somewhere, Anywhere” gravitates towards a more exotic realm in its incorporation of Eastern bells and an entranced voiceover. Having survived the plunge into Pyle's Ensemble Economique universe, the listener comes to realize that the musical material's heady character finds its natural analogue in the ultra-detailed cover collage, which likewise threads micro-bits of matter into something that's as transfixing as it is brain-addling.

January 2012