Rejoice! The Light Has Come – II
If every genre of music is a language, then we can think of bands as authors who write in those respective languages. The first chord of II tells you instantly what language we are speaking.
The language of dissonant black metal has been evolving and becoming more popular in the last decade. Every band has their own formula for writing music like this; their own dialects and slang, their clicks and pops, their interpretations, and their judgments. I trust the clicks and pops and judgments of Rejoice! The Light Has Come.
If you Google the definition for “dissonance,” it says, “lack of harmony among musical notes.” But is that really what we hear on II? Is it accurate to say that there is a lack of harmony on this EP? Of course not—in the same way that “wrong” notes sound “wrong” in music that follow more traditional melodic and harmonic theory, “wrong” notes would still sound “wrong” in “dissonant” music. I sometimes wonder if musicians who write this kind of music have to scrap parts for being too “melodic” sounding.
II is exemplary in illustrating the concept of harmony existing in dissonance. It gracefully walks a tightrope. It sounds wrong in all of the right ways. It provides the proper context such that its foulest qualities are also its most beautiful. Its lack of catchiness is simultaneously what makes it so memorable. Uneasy and mysterious, thematically cohesive, good lyrics, and you really can’t beat Colin Marston’s production. This release is a sharpened, ceremonial dagger.
Sunken Basilica – Sunken Basilica
Sunken Basilica is the one-man “impressionist” dungeon synth project of creative powerhouse, mad scientist, Edward Longo (Primeval Well, Skin Tension, Stumptail, SkyThala). I associate dungeon synth, as I have come to know it, with hyper-specificity. You have projects like Diplodocus—the project name is a dinosaur. The album art has dinosaurs on it. The Youtube video for their 2019 album, Slow and Heavy, even describes it as “Dino Synth” in parentheses. The music is indeed slow and heavy. The production, packaging, and image of Slow and Heavy all but forces the listener to imagine a prehistoric landscape while listening to the music. If you’re not thinking about dinosaurs while listening to Diplodocus then something is wrong with you. Another example is Tiny Mouse, with their 2020 release, The Happiest Mouse Alive. The album art has a mouse on it, and could you imagine, the mouse looks fucking happy. The music sounds small and meagre, in its own lane, bothering nobody. Ok, well I guess I’m thinking about mice who are happy as shit, the happiest in the world apparently, while I listen to this. Maybe I’m even going so far as to imagine that I am the happiest mouse in the world. I can’t help it. You made me do it, and I love it. But what Edward has created here is something totally different. Something harder to categorize.
Inspired by classical artists such as Debussy, Messiaen, and Penderecki, Sunken Basilica is a dreamy, peculiar collection of compositions unlike anything I have personally ever heard. I think that I lack the technical and musical vocabularies necessary to analyze this music as deeply as it deserves to be analyzed. I may not be formally educated, but I can send a message on Instagram, so I asked Edward himself how he would describe the sound of his album:
I was thinking submerged sounding and decaying music, things that reference the Drowned Cathedral by Debussy. Abyssal things.
“Abyssal” may be the best word to describe this music. While I listen, it’s as if something is being revealed to me. Each track is a new curtain opening, revealing something life-changing and mind-altering. It’s like I’ve just been shown a perpetual motion machine, but the catch is that it needs to be lubricated with human blood in order to work. My blood, specifically. It sounds regal; as if it were on a stage. Close, but untouchable. It sounds like I’m at the top of Count Alucard’s castle and I can’t get to sleep because he’s downstairs in his lair just shredding these songs on the organ all night. It sounds like a vampire wrote this, who then sent the stems to a goblin to mix and master it. Highly recommended.
Jorden Albright – Anatomy
This month, I’ve felt a bit of musical burn-out. I’ve set the goal for myself to review five albums a month. No specific genre, no minimum word count, no exact deadline; just share thoughts about five albums every month. Some months have been easier than others, but sometimes I’m unsure what to say about the new, hideously abrasive metal stuff that I’ve listened to every month.
With that considered, Jorden’s music has been a nice change of pace this month. Anatomy is six clean, sexy, and catchy pop tracks that you can take at face value. It’s not a harrowing opus that details Jorden’s most personal traumas. It’s not gossipy, it isn’t rude, and it doesn’t sound like every song is aimed at someone’s throat. The music doesn’t attempt to explain some overly complicated concept. It’s sweet. You could send any of these tracks to bae and they would miss you more than they did before; the innocent romance is weaponizable.
If you were to ask Jorden to describe herself, I think that Anatomy would be a perfect answer for now. Peaceful and fun. Honest and confident. Multifaceted and skilled. This release makes me happy. Listen to it with the windows down while driving home from work. Listen to it while doing chores. While working, or while playing. It could belong anywhere.
Hainbach – Syn-Ket Studien
Hainbach is the Bob Ross of electronic music. His music is founded on a fascination with sound itself; timbres and voices, textures and colours. His pieces often incorporate “test equipment,” old machines that weren’t intended to be played as instruments, and does exactly that: play them as instruments. He’ll even tell you where you can find test equipment yourself if you’d like to try it out. His studio is completely non-traditional; filled with gear you’ve never heard of and synths that would make collectors tear up with admiration. His Youtube channel is a soft, cool pillow for people who like to tinker and turn knobs, fans of ambient music, and fans of music history all the same.
Syn-Ket Studien is a love letter to the Syn-Ket, an Italian synth from the sixties that has nearly been lost to time. Hainbach recorded this album on the last known playable Syn-Ket at the Museo del Synth Marchigiano. There’s even a full album playthrough on his YouTube channel, where you can watch him gently modulate parameters, open and close filters, turning knobs with respectful finesse. It’s almost erotic.
Besides the history of the instrument, the music is entrancing. No drums, no vocals, just pure, warm signal. What I love about this record, especially watching the playthrough while listening, is that it demonstrates what elements of electronic music really are. You get to see that what we often register as a “kick drum” is just an oscillator with a set of ADSR and filter settings. It makes you think about the fact that all music is just signal processing. The boundary of what can even be called music is brought into question with this record. It’s funny to imagine a huge crowd of ravers dancing to this music. What is the minimum amount of “musicality” or “tonality” that ravers need to dance for thirty minutes? It makes me wonder if you could make a crowd dance with nothing but a low pitched, pulsing sine wave. Add a pitch envelope to make it sound closer to a kick. A little transient shaping, and your set is complete.
If you’re fascinated with synth technology, you will be fascinated by this record. If you enjoy very minimal electronic music with no drops, no wobble bass, and no breaks, then this might be a godsend for you. If you sometimes find yourself feeling musically jaded, caught up in that “been there, heard that” feeling, try this out.
Sevish – Morphable
This is my first encounter with Sevish. When I saw on Spotify that this album’s opening track, “The Mad Mile,” was tagged as “microtonal techno,” I had to listen.
Morphable is a bizarre object. It has an impish, spanky, mischievous quality to it. “The Mad Mile” starts us off with this chorusy, microtonal, staccato synth line. Clean, open hi-hats on the upbeat accompanied by these zooming twinkles that drive by you in the near background. It’s very busy, as if you’re Frogger trying to jump in between cars or else you’ll get squashed. All of these elements together give this song that hectic, mischievous quality.
The next track, “Everyone,” begins with these thick chords, fogged with reverb and delay. Chopped breaks carry us into these robotic, drifting vocal samples. This track feels huge. It reminds me of a quote from Mr. Bill: “Let top shit do top shit, let bottom shit do bottom shit.” That’s what we have here. Sweet romance between the high-end and low-end.
My favourite song is the fifth track, “Rain Pitted 99.” It has this terribly detuned piano verse that repeats over and over. It’s so confidently dissonant that it makes me laugh. It sounds perfectly fucked up. I would love to see this in a DJ set, confused faces everywhere. “I can’t vibe to this!”
This entire record makes me think of oil on water; smeary, floating iridescent colours. Wonky creatures with mismatched limbs and proportions that don’t make any sense. A world of problems and intentions that I don’t understand. A woozy and green-gilled soundtrack to an unfamiliar landscape.