Mario Diaz de Leon is a composer living in Brooklyn, and here he presents his second full length as Oneirogen. The sound quality is rich and processed to gritty perfection. Stylistically, it’s easy to make Sunn-O))) and M83 references. The metal aspect can be dense and chaotic, but at times de Leon is content to let one sound hold our attention, running the risk of being either spine tingling or inarticulate.
“Numina” opens with glistening square waves doused in charcoal. Blackened, down-tuned guitar lines are joined by subtle synth mimics, a motif De Leon continues to ramp up throughout the record. At times some of these tracks take pause, the guitar grinding into oblivion without direction. This splinter in the dreary dream occurs enough times on the album to break the spell. That said, this technique of pummeling with distortion and then suddenly drifting peacefully is done really well in other sections such as those in “Pathogen,” a song which sounds like it’d be at home in a Ridley Scott suspense film.
“Mutilation” begins with some near-silly digital hiccups, but expands into a very dramatic and mortifying twisting of storm clouds and fear. Imagine Oneohtrix Point Never and Nadja scoring a minimalist horror soundtrack together. Kiasma has slight touches of black metal, notably on “Imminence” where de Leon shreds hot wire chords as a burgeoning melee of more guitars pile into each other in the background, as if to reanimate a corpse. This is the kind of album where imagining the cinematic accompaniment cannot be helped, making it highly adaptable to many a situation while walking the earth with headphones.
The soundtrack vibe is not always in the clear, but instead waiting around a terrifying corner. “Katabasis” has more than a murder’s worth of suites, but its driving force is a brittle, crystalline guitar sound, reminiscent of Norwegian space doom outfit Hjarnidaudi. After this white hot paralysis transforms and destroys itself, the bottom drops out to reveal a flat-out Italian horror movie segment complete with more-than-minor key synth gestures and gauzy guitars. It’s the kind of stuff that Mike Patton butters his bread with. De Leon performs this music all by himself, and at nearly fifteen minutes “Katabasis” would definitely be worth being a witness. A true highlight.
Kiasma seems to run out of steam a bit in the back end, and it becomes harder to accept it as a stand-alone record. It needs a movie! An interlude like “Gauze” is delicate and lonely, in need of a home (which could have been TRON!). “Mortisomnia” begins with the intensity befitting of a closing piece, but it seems to wallow in a predictable swamp of extra doom and gloom. The harsh vocals coming through a thick fog are not a first for De Leon, but their only appearance on Kiasma is a bit awkward, ensuring a bleak and somewhat pale conclusion. After some wonderful compositions, it’s a let down. Perhaps listeners with a stronger metal allegiance will revel in it. Oneirogen’s sound pallet is sumptuous and covered in spines, so the audio quality is top shelf – but is it enough? Adapting it to a visual component would seal the deal for me. (Nayt Keane)
Release date: 22 February