2009 Ten Favourite Labels
Simon Scott's Navigare
Traxx's 10 Chicago Tracks

Matt Bartram
Bell Horses
Broadcast & Focus Group
Angus Carlyle
Ytre Rymden Dansskola
Do Make Say Think
Isnaj Dui
Shane Fahey
Jan Garbarek Group
Lisa Germano
Rachel Grimes
Christopher Jion
P Jørgensen
Leyland Kirby
Elisa Luu
Mountain Ocean Sun
Marcello Napoletano
Andy Nice
Rameses III
Sankt Otten
Danny Saul
Simon Scott
Sleep Whale
Susanna & Magical Orch.
Claude VonStroke

Compilations / Mixes
Favourite Places 2
Music For Mathematics
Snuggle & Slap
Sander Kleinenberg 2

DJ Bone
DJ Nasty
Duque and Baxter
Ghenacia & Djebali
Kez YM
King Roc
Vadim Lankov
Lavender Ticklesoft
Lo-Fi Soundsystem
Niko Marks
Mark Templeton

Syntaks: Ylajali

Syntaks' Ylajali (a female character in the 1888 novel Hunger by Knut Hamsun) is the kind of recording one would more expect to find issued on Darla than Ghostly, given the background of the music's creators and the style of gauzy synthetic grandeur they cultivate in the album's nine tracks. Though Copenhagen, Denmark-based Jakob Skott (who collaborated years ago with Jonas Munk as Limp on a Morr Music release) initially produced music under the Syntaks in a solo capacity, he began making music with vocalist Anna Cecilia in April 2006 when he added her vocals to his 2006 album Awakes before according her full-time partner status. The latest Syntaks model, then, updates its hazy Manual-like style with the humanizing presence of her airy wordless soprano. Cecilia and Skott are clearly no acoustic purists—we're told, for example, that every sound on the album, whether it be piano or snare drum, has been electronically treated—with Syntaks' preferred style epic in sound and vision. That Skott is a drummer by trade is evidenced by the crisp beats (live and programmed) that anchor many a track (the hefty bottom end that rumbles through “She Moves in Colors,” for instance).

A strong opener, “Twentytwohundred” is graced by a transporting guitar theme, Cecilia's ethereal presence, and a grandiose mass of electronics, while “She Moves in Colors” builds its cascades of electric guitars and drums into a towering, near-frenzied throwdown that's so huge her voice is either buried altogether or barely audible as a deep-throated hum. Rolling forth in a tidal wave of radiant electronics, synthetic keyboards, downtempo beats, and choir-like vocals, “Mistral Moon” is emblematic of the group's dreamlike sound. Syntaks follows the album's most tumultuous track, “The Shape of Things to Come,” with “Dark Night,” a sparkling closer that escalates from serenade to anthem in five minutes.

Despite Cecilia's equal-partner status, the wordless approach renders her one more sound of many, even if one distinct from the rest. Naturally, a conventional vocal approach that would see her sing lyrics instead of contributing atmsophere would give her a stronger presence, but doing so would also conventionalize Syntaks' sound more perhaps than its creators desire. That's a round-about way of saying that Syntaks still sounds more like a Skott solo project than partnership. Given the cinematic character of the group's music, it's not totally surprising to find Syntaks listing at its MySpace page films and directors (Antonioni, Haneke, Cronenberg, Buñuel, Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Herzog, among others) as influences rather than albums or musical artists. Regardless, the music the two have conjured on this forty-five-minute outing has its moments and is certainly spectacular on sonic grounds. It goes without saying that Ylajali will appeal to Manual and shoegaze devotees (it's next to impossible to hear a track such as “Blue Sunshine” and not be reminded of Robin Guthrie's solo work and his band The Cocteau Twins) more than any other.

November 2009