Ontayso: Abstract Serie No. 7

Ontayso: Abstract Serie No. 8

Ontayso's latest epic journey continues with parts seven and eight in the projected ten-part Abstract Serie opus. Ontayso's habit of releasing the chapters as separate installments gives the series the feel of a television series whose parts are doled out week-by-week such that the season's trajectory only comes into complete focus when the last episode airs and the season can be experienced as a singular long-form work; it'll be interesting to listen to all ten releases back to back when they're all finally available. I suspect that the totality will convey some sense of narrative arc when experienced as a single work, but for now the best we can do is take pleasure in absorbing each individual installment. As per usual, the releases come adorned with cover paintings by Ontayso's Koen Lybaert (his group partner is Esther Santoyo), the idea being that each part takes its inspiration, at least in part, from the painting in question.

The Geel, Belgium-based duo inaugurates number seven with a deep, simmering drone that gradually grows heavier as it exhales slowly, so slowly it feels on the verge of expiring altogether. The mood darkens as the brooding ambient material plunges into a subterranean zone where the music drifts in a disoriented daze, growing ever more sickly as all sense of time collapses, and where softly wailing voices emerge alongside synthetic string tones and washes. The seventh spends much of its fifty-minute running time in a dream-like state of near-lifeless catatonia until, just past the half-hour mark, a metallic pulsation arises and the material, now alert, mutates into an elastic dub techno episode that repeatedly swells into massive, hammering throbs before abruptly deflating and turning once again into the ruminative, crackling drone with which it left port.

Number eight begins in a comparatively more energized state, with winds blowing across gently burbling chords and those familiar Ontayso pulsations creeping into formation. The intensity level gradually rises and the density deepens, until a slow metamorphosis transpires with the music's fizzy static becoming fragile streaks of light and the mass itself becoming ever more tenebrous. Twenty-two minutes in, faint percussive patterns surface, portending the propulsion one anticipates will arrive and that eventually does, ten minutes later in the form of a laid-back skank. Ambient synths coil themselves around the minimal pulse until shimmering swirls of vaporous haze bring the chapter to its haunted close.

While they're obviously wholly different groups on stylistic grounds, Ontayso and Celer are alike to the degree that their respective releases—voluminous in number in both cases—can be seen as one massive over-arching project. That's certainly true in the case of Ontayso's Abstract Serie and earler Project 24 Hours sets.

November 2010