Syntaks: Awakes

Don't be surprised if Jakob Skøtt's Syntaks opus sounds vaguely familiar as his Limp project with Jonas Munk (aka Manual) gave rise to the similarly cinematic Orion in 2002; Munk himself adds guitar to two of the 50-minute album's more epic cuts, aligning the projects' sounds even more closely (“Rise” wafts on a light ambient breeze until Munk's ringing guitar ups the anthemic ante in the cut's final minutes). Syntaks' shoegaze-styled material typically builds to form grandiose cathedrals of chiming reverberance that are so extreme in their magnitude they verge on overblown. The ringing cascades of “Big Sur” call to mind the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands while harder-edged beats roll through a glitchfest of whirring machine noise in “Kilgore Lives.” Though the disc generally favours wide-screen epics (“Stars Fell On the Shore”), an occasional restrained interlude (“0400 Hours”) allows for some refreshing contrast. Despite the (barely audible) presence of Maja Maria's ethereal vocalizing on “In the Wake,” Skøtt's album emphasizes sculpted atmosphere more than hooks per se which makes Awakes less appealing than, say, Manual's Until Tomorrow and, while it never settles into New Age blandness, Syntaks' blissed-out ambiance, though louder, isn't entirely free of its character.

May 2006