Alchemical Wanderings arrives in a mysteriously shaded bag and is accompanied by a tube of miscellaneous metals, befitting its title. Gold flecks have been mixed in, perhaps some pyrite and copper. Warning to children: Do Not Eat.
This mysterious air extends to the recording itself, from a South Korean artist who prefers to err on the side of anonymity. Even the tracks lack guideposts: they are referred to as a single piece, and are connected by a very thin thread of vinyl crackle that fades into silence at the end of each movement, only to start again at the beginning of the next. The submerged gongs and bells of the opening section lend the album an ancient air; but after only three minutes, they are joined by modern pings and pongs. A fade into nothingness at 4:30 is followed by the omnipotent crackle as it introduces a new set of tones. This pattern of reset and repeat imitates an experiment in which variables are changed one at a time in hopes of achieving the desired result. For the alchemists, it was turning lead into gold; for Fescal, it seems to be understanding through immersion.
Each sub-track possesses a slightly different timbre. For identification purposes, the elements can be separated into “Chime” (00:00), “Dark” (04:31), “Knock” (09:03), “Wind” (13:54), “Echo” (16:12), “Grow” (20:28), “Remember” (25:31), and “Cheer” (29:46). And then the most unpredictable element seeps from the speakers: “Silent Night” (33:02). There’s no telling if this is intentional, or a happy occurrence; if random tones ever lead to something so structured and familiar. It would be a shame to learn that the artist was unaware of the chordal resemblance, as this is not only the album’s most stunning sequence, it’s also its raison d’etre: order rising from chaos, peace from turmoil. In this segment, the alchemical wanderings produce a destination; Fescal can finally lay his pyrite down. The piece then extends past melody into drone, as the notes are exhausted and sink into single-color couches. For once, the crackle remains constant, providing a bridge at 42:46. “Knock” appears again at 43:33. It’s as if Fescal is poring over his notes one last time before writing his scientific summary. The final fade leads to a free-standing section at 46:55 (“Coda”), in which we clearly hear the sound of a car driving by. There goes our scientist, thesis in tow. (Richard Allen)