Questionnaire IV

As Lonely As D. Bowman
John Atkinson
Tom Bell
Big Bend
The Black Dog
Nicholas Chase
Chronotope Project
Mario Diaz de Leon
Ricardo Donoso
Brian Ellis Group
Ellis & Grainger
Gurun Gurun
Stefano Guzzetti
Heathered Pearls
Hidden Rivers
Michael Hix
Wayne Horvitz
Indigo Kid
Jerusalem In My Heart
Chad Kettering
The Last Hurrah!!
Gary Martin
Josh Mason
Lorenzo Masotto
Andy McLeod
Thomas Ragsdale
Steve Roach
Michael Robinson
Steve Roden + Mem1
Santiago Salazar
Dirk Serries
Serries & Zuydervelt
Slow Meadow
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Cara Stacey
Phil Tomsett
Jeppe Zeeberg

Compilations / Mixes / Remixes / Reissues
Deep Love 15
Graveyard Tapes
Photek / H. Agen. / W. Doc.
Positive Flow

EPs / Cassettes / DVDs / Mini-Albums / Singles
DJ Madd
Henning & Ringler
Ki Oni
Danny Scrilla
Rick Wade
Erik Wøllo

Stefan Goldmann

Legiac: The Faex Has Decimated
Tympanik Audio

MultiColor: From the Outside
Tympanik Audio

Stendeck: Folgor
Tympanik Audio

This latest roundup of Tympanik Audio releases says much about the label's evolution from its dark, industrial-electronic beginnings to the more encompassing and multi-dimensional label that it is today. Heavy post-rock, IDM, glitch-funk, and electronica are but a sampling of the styles explored on the Stendeck, Legiac, and MultiColor releases.

It might sound strange to say it, but Folgor sounds like a concerted effort on Stendeck's part to make his music as accessible as possible. That doesn't mean the fifth Stendeck album from Switzerland-based Alessandro Zampieri will be battling it out with Taylor Swift or Maroon 5 at the top of the charts, but it does mean that anyone curious about Stendeck could do a whole lot worse than treat Folgor as an entry-point. Fifteen tracks are featured on the sixty-four-minute recording, and all are concise statements lasting between three to five minutes each. Enhancing their accessibility, the pieces are almost song-like in structure, even if they are instrumentals. Moods and styles shift from one piece to the next as well, a strategy that not only keeps the listener engaged but impressed by Zampieri's range and command.

Opening the album dynamically, “Come to me, close your eyes and lose yourself inside me” rolls out a signature Stendeck blend of bulldozing beats, foreboding atmospheres, and intricate synthesizer patterns. Yet while “Violently exciting and extremely loud [folgor]” makes good on its titular promise, it includes passages that melodically verge on pop as well as a pulsating dance-styled rhythm, details that help bolster the material's accessibility. As the album advances, Zampieri dips into synth-funk throwdowns (“The curious disease of the howling man”) and heavy IDM-electronica (“In deep waters we fall apart”), and his skills as a sound designer are generously displayed, especially in the way samples are threaded into the material. A knife-like swish, for instance, is worked into the rhythm pattern of “Tonight is forever” in a way that helps set it apart from the other tracks, and much the same can be said for the bell tones that brighten the punchy roller “About gravity and the undefined science of human attraction.”

Four years on from the release of Scintilla, Folgor finds Zampieri refining his Stendeck sound and enthusiastically tackling a plenitude of styles. Predictably many are aggressive and epic in pitch, but some are subtler and more subdued in temperature. When heard in the context of the louder pieces, “At the gate of impossible things” plays like a refreshing interlude of calm and serenity, and the piano-based ballad “Sad lovers' song” definitely catches the listener by surprise. Make no mistake, however: Stendeck's maximal productions are here, just as they've always been, dense and dramatic in the extreme.

Some electronic producers are rather precious when it comes to sharing production-related details. That's clearly not the case with Roel Funcken (Funckarma, Quench) and Cor Bolten (Dif:use) who display on the inner sleeve of their sophomore Legiac album a detailed list of analog and digital gear used in the production of The Faex Has Decimated. Legiac isn't, incidentally, a new project but one that came into being in 2007 when Funckarma (brothers Don and Roel) collaborated with Bolten on Ming Feaner (Sending Orbs). Eight years on from that release, the new collection features thirteen ultra-intricate samplings of glitch-funk, a style intimated by the bizarre collage mutation shown on the cover and track titles such as “Bizoid Stroke” and “Hannabinoid Cyperemesis.” While such titles might suggest something rather Oval-like, the music itself is closer in spirit to a hybrid form of ambient soundscaping and beat-based electronica. Throughout the fifty-seven-minute recording, the duo builds multiple micro-textures, curdling beats, and melodic phrases into dense, at times convulsive constructions.

The Faex Has Decimated isn't standard IDM or club music, but IDM and dancefloor elements do surface now and then, even if they're dramatically refracted by Funcken and Bolten in the process: IDM synth patterns repeatedly cascade through “Bizoid Stroke” while hammering beat elements keep up an incessant chatter'n'thrum, and a techno pulse constantly threatens to hijack “Sprain Detaxx” though never quite manages to establish itself as a straightforward club groove. In amongst the beat-driven settings are ambient pieces (e.g., “Conazol Ketamind,” “Hannabinoid Cyperemesis,” “Jefre Tramix”) whose less frenetic character offers a welcome opportunity to relax and refresh. Aside from that alternation between beat-driven and ambient settings, no discernible narrative arc asserts itself; The Faex Has Decimated instead plays like thirteen shape-shifting variations on a theme, with all of the pieces in the three- to five-minute range. One ultimately comes away from the album thinking of Funcken and Bolten as unrepentant knob-twisters, producers perfectly happy to be labeled gearheads.

Of the three releases, it's MultiColor's From The Outside that reveals how much Tympanik Audio has broadened its stylistic scope from the early days. Anything but industrial electronica, this debut full-length collection (and follow-up to the 2014 Cyclicity EP) from Russian musician Anton Guskov locates itself firmly within the IDM genre, though to be precise less the Plaid kind and more the type crafted by Lusine. To say that many a track on the MultiColor release could be mistaken for ones by Lusine isn't meant as a disparagement of Guskov's work but rather to simply note the degree of similarity between the respective projects' sounds.

The album's eight tracks show a high level of craft and sophistication with respect to sound design and compositional form. Crisp beats lend the settings ample momentum, but Guskov's music possesses an intellectual charge that complements the physical. The Matrix and its philosophical ideas presumably exerted a significant impact on the producer, given the repeated inclusion of dialogue samples lifted from the film (a typical example is “It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from truth,” words Morpheus utters when introducing Neo to the Matrix). In “Indecisive Dream,” Guskov boldly distorts samples of vocal ululations and Morpheus's words but counters the destability that results with a grounding piano melody and a rhythm foundation, and the clipped speech fragments that pepper “Sacramental Moments”—especially when accompanied by a glitch-funk pulse—collapse the distance between MultiColor and Lusine to an even greater degree.

Such moments are hardly the only ear-catching ones on the fifty-three-minute recording, however: Guskov spreads glitches, whooshes, and all other manner of abstract electronic detail across the tracks' beat structures, and consequently the listener is presented with a nonstop barrage of stimulation. Piano and synthesizer melodies muscle their way into the arrangements, too, in a way that ensures the tracks possess enough individuating character to differentiate them from one another. As a result the listener ends up spending the seven minutes of “Lost Moment,” for example, shifting back and forth between the enticing, IDM-driven funk groove on the one hand and the swirling, detail-rich sound design on the other.

September 2015