[MIIIIM]: Mansfield Reformatory EP
Sparkwood Records

Scyye: From EP
Sparkwood Records

textura recently had the pleasure of reviewing Everyday Dust's The Principality of Dustland, but Sparkwood Records, the Norway-based independent label responsible for its release, also issues EPs as well as full-lengths. Two such outings by Scyye (Danny Srp) and [MIIIIM] (Michael Iannone) uphold the label's commitment to ambient, drone, and left-field electronic genres.

Of the two, it's Scyye's From that's the harder one to pin down, simply because of the generous stylistic range explored on the eighteen-minute set. Further to that, only two of its six tracks push beyond the three-minute mark, which makes it a challenge for the listener to get a solid take on the Scyye persona when a piece doesn't stick around for long. The set opens with “Fraction of Finity,” a meditative, somewhat Eno-like construction of piano and ambient electronics; with its willowy melody and hazy sound design, “Nine,” on the other hand, could easily pass for a lost Boards of Canada track. On a more rhythmically pronounced tip, “In a Circle” and “CCTV” bring a woozy, head-nodding vibe to the release in supplementing their plentiful keyboard atmospherics with crisp, downtempo grooves. Regardless of whether a piece is beat-driven or ambient-oriented, Scyye does impress on sound design terms, and though it might not be easy to get a definitive sense of precisely who or what Scyye is, the trip is still engaging and scenic.

No such lack of clarity attends Iannone's [MIIIIM] project, at least insofar as Mansfield Reformatory can be taken to to be representative of its style. In this case there are two tracks only, the principal one twenty minutes and the other a modest two-minute addendum. Imprisonment, both physical and spiritual, is the theme around which the release constellates, and Iannone's haunted material effectively provokes feelings of melancholy and despair, during the long setting in particular. In the title track, field recordings speckled with real-world clatter and speaking voices appear first, before being quickly replaced by long, crystalline trails of (presumably) guitar-generated textures. In the minutes that follow, dramatic dronescaping passages dominate, with extra-musical sounds subtly folded in at strategic moments to intensify the enveloping gloom. In fact, the title track is so complete a statement, it renders the inclusion of “Beannacht” unnecessary, though it is a pleasing enough collage of hiss, guitar drones, and speaking voices when considered on its own terms. But it's “Mansfield Reformatory,” as expertly executed an example of artful dronescaping as has been heard in these parts for many a day, that is the EP's true drawing card, especially when Iannone shows himself to be such a skilled hand at easing the material through its many modulations.

March 2015