Dark ambient and light ambient go together like the flavors in a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, or for the more prosaic, yin and yang. SicSic Tapes’ latest split release presents the music of two solo artists whose work each complements the other, although their timbres and moods are completely different. Only when played back-to-back does the connection become apparent.
Sunhiilow (Valerie Magisson) is all sweetness and light, electronic bell tones and wandering synths establishing a hopeful mood early on. Her pieces are succinct and self-contained, rolling out like the petals of single-day flowers, ready to be pollenized. The titles are a bit darker, referencing serpents, amphibians and bones, implying that something strange is bubbling beneath the surface: a forgotten tale brought to life by jolted memory, a dream within a dream. This is the sort of music that should have been used in the remake of “Alice in Wonderland” in place of the sadly predictable Danny Elfman; once one knows a person’s oddness, it no longer seems odd. When listening to Sunhiilow, one muses, “I don’t know what that is” or “I don’t know where we are headed” ~ curiouser and curiouser, in a pleasant way.
The elongated brass tones of Magisson’s “Bones, Feathers and You” is a harbinger of things to come. Baldruin (Johannes Schebler) takes Maggison’s fable-like wonder and turns it on its head. But while Schebler’s work is dark, his darkness also yields some light, creating a current between the sides. Here are crackles instead of bells, crinkles instead of tones, jammed melodies instead of gentle lilts. Still there is beauty – dark beauty, but beauty nonetheless, the enchanted forest that hides a hungry and crippled beast. In “Verwirrung des Gefühls”, clipped sounds grow in intensity – wind chimes and clopping horse’s feet. Whistles and whorls create whirlpools in “Zerfall des Magnetfeldes”, while frightened voices swirl in the windy vortex of “Sturz der Sirenen”. The music box tones of “Das Mirakel” may seem at first like a respite, but cloak their trap in twinkle: the house made of candy, the shiny apple, the spinner’s wheel.
Now flip the tape over ~ again, yes, again. Magisson doesn’t seem so light anymore, does she? The shades bleed together like undried paint. The distance between the artists now seems as thin as a narrow brown spool of tape, ready to crumble in the wake of one false move. (Richard Allen)