Monoceros: I Feel Apocalyptic Today

Joan Malé may have created I Feel Apocalyptic Today, his third Monoceros album, entirely on his own (except for two guests' voices on one track) but it often approximates the blistering attack of a full band. Issued on his own Imaginary Nonexistent Records label, I Feel Apocalyptic Today is available in two formats: as a basic CD, and in a limited-edition DVD box accompanied by sixteen original photographs (the album's music relates to landscape photography taken in Empordà where Malé lives). It's an eclectic sixty-five-minute album that resides midway between post-rock and electronica, with electric guitars swathed in dense masses of programmed drums, electronics, synths, and subtly-incorporated field recordings. It's also anything but antiseptic, with the oft-gritty material swelling to epic proportions in a handful of tracks, and growing progressively noisier until it roars almost non-stop during the second half.

Inaugurating the album promisingly, “Moment of Light” opens with contrastingly pitched tones that suggest an Alva Noto influence but Malé quickly distances himself from the association by layering metronomic acoustic guitar shadings overtop and then undergirding it with a throbbing bass line that wouldn't sound out of place in a prototypical post-rock track. The subtly funky feel of the opener blossoms more fully in “Little Cowboys,” especially with the inclusion of an ear-catching slide motif. Silken synth strings hover in the background, while electric piano and electronic beats add strong dashes of colour to the forefront. “Life in a Fishbowl (Are They* Watching Us?)” and “6EQUJ5” then serve up downtempo IDM of the glistening and beatific type, respectively, after which iridescent shimmer of guitars and electronics in “When the Trees Sleep” aligns Monoceros with Stray Dog Army artists Jasper Leyland and Mole Harness. It's at this stage of the album, however, that Malé cranks up the volume, a move that allows the material to leave a stronger impression: the slow-motion post-rock of in “How Was The Earth? (Mother)” becomes an anthemic prelude to “Escape From Gravity” where a jagged electric guitar line bleeds onto tough drumming and string synths before swelling into a wailing guitar army that could rip your ears off. “The Rain Song” drenches the listener in showers of electric guitars, and though one would expect the closing piece “The Hymn Without Song (Father)” to be quieter, even it gradually builds to a powerful pitch. (Though the album proper ends at this point, a thirteen-minute bonus track ensues with two minutes of field recordings (bird chirps, water sounds) followed by pastoral washes before concluding with a low-level, cricket-laden ambient drone.) At first blush, I Feel Apocalyptic Today may seem like an odd title but one listen to the album and it's clear how fitting a choice it is.

February 2009