Fischerle: The Big Sleep
Koen Lybaert: Dead Whale Floating
After a brief pause in its release schedule, the Belgium-based U-cover label returns with two strong releases, one from Fischerle (aka Polish producer Mateusz Wysocki) and the other from label head Koen Lybaert. The Big Sleep is Fischerle's first full-length on the label following a number of EP releases, while Dead Whale Floating is the Ontayso member's second album issued under his own name.
It takes but a few seconds for The Big Sleep's style to declare itself when liquidy chords inaugurate “Courtship.” A strong opener, the brooding cut eases the listener into the forty-eight-minute release by following its intro with a gradually intensifying groove in the classic dub-techno style—courtship indeed—after which heaving bass pulses, smeared chords, and swaying rhythms drift through rain-soaked streets in “Outdoor Petting.” Just as the opening cut progressively builds, so too does the album in toto hew to a narrative arc, with the opening cuts setting the stage for the more aggressive third “Like a Harpoon”—an apt title for a cut driven by a lazer-focused attack—and the hard-grooving “The Love Bruises,” whose shuffle'n'snap moves the Fischerle sound closer to the dance floor.
Field recordings are present throughout but most prominently featured in the closing tracks, the hiss-laden, beatless closer “Untold Story” most of all. At thirteen minutes the album's longest, “The Big Sleep” is also ambient-oriented. Smothered in rainy textures and field recordings, organ chords gently murmur for four minutes before the faintest trace of a beat emerges. But even after it does, the piece doesn't lose its ambient identity, and it ultimately ends up offering a pleasing change of pace on a largely beat-driven collection. Yes, Wysocki's Fischerle material is very much in the tradition associated with Basic Channel, Chain Reaction, and (early) Pole but that in no way argues against the release. If anything, it's wonderful to hear someone digging into the genre with such enthusiasm and affection.
Ecological concerns are clearly part of Lybaert's Dead Whale Floating project, specifically in highlighting the impact polluted oceans have on myriad life-forms, but its message doesn't extend overtly into the music itself beyond album and track titles. The fifty-one-minute set is more wide-ranging, stylistically speaking, than Fischerle's, with ambient-electronic, dub-techno, and acid-techno figuring into its synthesizer-heavy mix. Like Wysocki, Lybaert is keen to let his music stretch out, and consequently three of its six tracks push past the nine-minute mark with the closer checking in at fourteen.
Complementing the intense roar of “Stranded,” pulsating sequencer patterns strengthen the pounding, acid-techno drive of “No More Swallowing Humans” (there's even a Plastikman-styled figure that repeats throughout). With swollen synth melodies intoning determinedly alongside a clattering groove, “Lost at the Ocean” might be described as the ominous sound of Lybaert refracting dubstep through an Ontayso prism, while “Washed Up” and “When Killer Waves End” likewise retain traces of Ontayso, with the former's stylistic focus centered on atmospheric electronica and the latter's on dizzying dub-techno swirl. Lybaert's music has always been as preoccupied with hypnotic atmospheric design as rhythm, and Dead Whale Floating is no different in that regard.