Bee Mask: Elegy For Beach Friday
Seeing the colour wheel trademark on the back of Mist's House provides initial cause for excitement, as the visual detail signifies that the release is one more in an impressive string of releases from Editions Mego's sister label Spectrum Spools. It's the second full-length album by the Cleveland, Ohio-based Mist, which features ther label's curator John Elliott (Emeralds, Outer Space, Imaginary Softwoods) and Sam Goldberg (Radio People) using a Moog Voyager OS, Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, Korg Polysix, Univox Minikorg, and Roland RS-101 and SH-101 units to generate seven expansive tracks of multi-layered synthesizer music. Percolateing and pulsating with utopian fervour, the duo's follow-up to 2009's self-titled debut on Amethyst Sunset finds silken synthesizer washes and whooshes working hand-in-hand with mechano sequencer patterns to form intricate settings of sleek futuristic design.
“Twin Lanes” introduces the set with bright, high-energy flurries of hyperactive electronic patterns, their rhythms moving at lightning speed as they work towards a climax that's as serene as it is grandiose. The title track unspools in a dramatic, Tangerine Dream-like fashion with sequencer patterns animating the material with powerful forward momentum and quasi-funky rhythms. “Daydream,” not surprisingly, presents a seductive reverie of stately radiance that evokes a celestial vista where beatific ambient tones shimmer without end. Though slightly more ominous in tone than the other pieces, “P.M.,” the encompassing, thirteen-minute closing track, brings all of Mist's strengths to the fore. After a rapturous beatless intro sets the scene, a motorik pulse emerges to propel the music and the skies gradually darken as the material is buried under swathes of noise and haze. Less charitable listeners could justifiably conclude that House doesn't break significant new ground and that its seven pieces sometimes play like riffs on a shared template. But as a singular collection of state-of-the-art synthesizer instrumentals, one could do a whole lot worse. In fact, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Mist's fifty-three-minute outing could function as a representative release for Spectrum Spools as a whole.
Without taking anything away from Elegy For Beach Friday's considerable musical strengths, Chris Madak's Bee Mask release grabs one's attention for its distinctive track titles alone, cases in point “Askion Kataskion Lix Tetrax Damnameneus Aision,” “...so that We Each Wander through a True Elysium,” and—big breath, now—“Fallen Tree Thursday and the Half-Crushed Arc of the Sky Taking Tea in the Pastoral Index.” In one sense, Elegy For Beach Friday is different from Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico, the Bee Mask set issued in the early part of 2011, as that release features two fourteen-minute settings whereas the new one includes eleven (more precisely, eleven pieces newly re-edited and re-mastered, recorded between 2003 and 2010, and previously issued in limited cassette and CD-R formats). Having said that, the difference is less great than it might appear, given that each of the new album's settings flows uninterruptedly into the one following, and consequently, Elegy For Beach Friday holds together as a seamless, unified statement.
The wide range of gear the Philadelphia-based producer used to create the material (synthesizers, percussion, piano, guitar, tape, electronics, and max/MSP) is reflected in the broad stylistic range covered by the material itself. The album pretty much touches all of the electronic music bases: deep space drone transmissions (“Causes and Cures” and the ultra-electrified, ten-minute epic “Stop the Night”), foreboding doomscaping (“...so that We Each Wander through a True Elysium,” which plays like a journey through Hades), spacey psychedelia (“In the Karst Interior”), noise explorations (“How to Live in a Smashed State,” where pristine bell tones are accompanied by writhing machine eviscerations), and more. Though its title recalls LaMonte Young's penchant for similarly long-winded titles, the ambient washes and long, sultry tones of “Fallen Tree Thursday and the Half-Crushed Arc of the Sky Taking Tea in the Pastoral Index” conjure the image of a humid oasis, while the industrial-ambient setting “Askion Kataskion Lix Tetrax Damnameneus Aision” opts for a grittier flow of corroded textures and nightmarish churn without ever turning abrasive or pain-inducing. The trip is most definitely scenic and eye-opening, and Elegy For Beach Friday, especially when grouped with Canzoni Dal Laboratorio Del Silenzio Cosmico, argues strongly for Madak's status as a confident and assured sculptor of electronic sound.