VA: Emerging Organisms 4
Tympanik Audio

This latest chapter in Tympanik Audio's Emerging Organisms story is more than simply the fourth collection in the annual series. There was a time when the label's primary focus was a bruising and epic kind of dark electronica; by comparison, the twenty-nine tracks on this latest collection sound collectively sublter and more sophisticated. If the compilation can be read as representative of the label in its current form, Emerging Organisms 4 emphatically shows that the label's vision has grown progressively more refined since its inception. In the years since Tympanik Audio began, it's opened its doors to welcome artists associated with other labels, and this latest one not only includes artists such as Hecq, Nebulo, and Architect from Hymen and Dryft and Port-Royal from n5MD but also Bola of Skam fame. Perhaps the more applicable word is not so much emergence as expansion.

The two CDs feature over 140 minutes of new and exclusive tracks by Tympanik Audio mainstays such as Anklebiter, Stendeck, C.H. District, Access To Arasaka, Tapage, and Subheim, as well as relatively new recruits like Mobthrow,, KiloWatts, and Boy Is Fiction. Some contributors give us what one might expect from the label (on the first disc especially)—epic doomscaping, including an ominous ambient-drone setting from Hecq (Ben Lukas Boysen) called “Ritual Study” and a dystopic mini-symphony by Architect (Daniel Myer) titled “Episode 7”—whereas others add new styles to the mix. “Insight” by Ant-Zen artist Diaphane (Regis Baillet) might be seen as representative of the doomscaping style in its cryptic blend of muffled voices, writhing electronic storms, foreboding strings, and powerhouse beats. Elsewhere, Logical Disorder (Javier Barrero) and Hymen's Keef Baker give us variations on that theme in their “After the Battle” and “Cranesong” tracks. We get thunderous electro-funk from Tympanik artists Displacer (M. Morton) and Stendeck (Alessandro Zampieri) in “Outland” and “The Secret Behind The Third Door,” respectively. Rhythmically speaking, traces of drum'n'bass, jungle, hip-hop, and mangled funk surface in many of the tracks, and, yes, Frank Riggio's “Tryk Alimba” does, in fact, take his kalimba for a ride through a thick cluster of skipping beats and cellos.

The second disc contains a larger number of lighter moments, with a corresponding de-emphasis on heavy electronica and a broader range of styles included. Though Subheim (Kostas Katsikas) does get things moving with “Mir50,” a brooding, strings-heavy setting powered by percussive-heavy beats, those that come after veer down other paths. In “Last,” Tapage (Tijs Ham) surprises the listener with an acid-tinged synth-pop sparkler that could charm children and grandparents in equal measure. KiloWatts's (Jamie Watts) likewise opts for a poppier vibe in “Transmogrifier,” while Mobthrow (Angelos Liaros) serves up atmospheric trip-hop in “Birds Fly High,” with strings adding dramatic weight to its slow-motion head-nod. Other highlights include “Be There” by Ad Noiseam's Matta (James and Andy Matta), which rolls out five minutes of soulful hip-hop of the kind that might result from a Burial-Sepalcure collaboration, and Port-Royal's “Spider Toupet,” which finds the group stoking a shoegaze firestorm with a little help from chanteuse Linda Bjalla. A few soothing moments emerge during “Disengage” by Erode (Alexander Dietz), and Miroslav Losonky likewise sneaks in a few passages of lilting prettiness in between the crushing beat manipulations of “Terminal.” Funky, guitar-based post-rock from SE (Sebastian Ehmke) (“0459”) and synth-heavy trip-hop from Northcape (Alastair Brown) (“1am Transition”) also appear before Bola caps the release with a live track “Szeaafar” that's, well, very Bola-like in its sweeping synth components and crisp beat patterns. There's not a weak one in the bunch, and though it ain't exactly wallflower music (hardly news to long-time fans of the label), this consistently solid collection never fails to deliver the goods.

November 2011