Pandora's Black Book: Divergent
Raumklang Music

Much like Tympanik Audio, Dirk Geiger's Raumklang Music specializes in dark industrial-electronic music of the kind ably represented by Divergent, a seventy-six-minute collection from James Church (aka Pandora's Black Book) who otherwise issues music under the Lucidstatic name. Conceived as a downtempo and more harmonious side project of Church's, Pandora's Black Book extends the dark electronic template into ambient and IDM zones, even if this fourth full-length release under the moniker oozes all of the dystopic portent and epic drama characteristic of the dark electronica genre (titles like “The Nights The Lights Went Out” and “Stars Dying” suggest as much).

The prototypical Pandora's Black Book track—“Genotype” a good example in this case—is an epic and foreboding set-piece aswarm with seething synthesizers, programmed beats, and an occasional sample (the melismatic vocalizing of a Sufi singer in the opening piece “Calming,” for example). Having said that, a rich range of ground is covered by the album's fourteen tracks (two of them remixes). “Fear of Tomorrow” distinguishes itself by integrating graceful, Asian-styled melodic content and rhythms into its ultra-dramatic and grandiose structure. Though still cloaked in darkness, “Formula 51” nevertheless presents a slightly sunnier disposition in the jaunty strut of its quasi-hip-hop-styled beat pattern, while the noisier end of the spectrum is accounted for by the likes of “Chipped Keys, Gathering Dust” and “The Nights The Lights Went Out.” Eschewing beats altogether, “Empty Spaces” chills the pace for a relatively restful setting of moonlit moodscaping that provides a welcome respite from the heavier constructions that otherwise dominate.

Connecting the dots between Tympanik Audio and Raumklang Music even more solidly, Tympanik Audio artists Tineidae and Erode contribute remixes to the release, both of which naturally appear at album's end (Tineidae amps up the synthesizer sequencer quotient in his “Fear of Tomorrow” overhaul, and Erode remodels “Formula 51” into a crushing exercise in industrial-IDM). There's certainly no faulting the release on production grounds—Church is no slouch at fashioning sophisticated and self-contained universes of multi-tiered soundscaping—though there's little admittedly on offer that hasn't been heard before in slightly different form. Even so, one expects that for dark electronica genre fans who can never get enough of its icy sound, Divergent won't disappoint.

September 2012