A taâlem trio

Belgium’s taâlem label continues to breathe new life into one of our favorite formats, the CD3″.  Each season they release a new trio, representing a wide swath of sounds.  The latest batch delves into tribalism, abrasion and haunted ballroom; listening to the releases in order is like walking through exhibits in a terrifying circus.

Internal Fusion hearkens back to a time when the lines between dark ambient and industrial were blurred.  The 22-minute single-track Waïssad twists and turns like an injured acrobat, sounding at first like a joyous call from deepest Africa, delving into drums reminiscent of Skull Island, then descending into the mist, where monsters dwell.  The voices are holy and hooded, like those of medieval monks.  Slowly the fugue builds, marked by static rustlings and speaker-wandering percussion.  The cover may be green and lush, but don’t be fooled; these lands are dangerous.  Waïssad’s narcotic center may represent the time spent drugged, the victim of a blow dart; the slow awakening to tribal drums is lulling until it disappears, replaced by snakelike hisses and fractured drones.  There’s no escaping; all fates were sealed long ago.

If Waïssad descends into a sinister abyss, Cendre Ogata‘s De Magia rises from a mystical cellar.  The French artist’s first release hearkens back to Shinjuku Thief, inspired by magic and the writings of Giordano Bruno.  There’s no lushness here, no moss, no sign of greenery; the timbres are as parched as the cover, like dried sacrifices thrown into a fire.  In “veldaemones”, even the water seems to evaporate.  The pots and pans reverberate with hunger; a distant voice cries again and again, as if signaling a hunt.  “les feux les songes” (“the fires the dreams” ignites slowly, following a desperate bout of wind, filaments wafting in the air, pirouetting in a hot breeze of sluggish chords.  In the final minutes, fire and water meet, struggling for ascendance.  Is the intended victim trying to escape?  The birds signal a warning.  The brook reddens as it flows.

Our old friends Bartosz Dziadosz (Pleq) and Tomasz Mreńca (who also teamed with Dziadosz in The Frozen Vaults) arrive too late to save the sacrifices, but early enough to offer an elegy.  Mreńca’s violin is the secret weapon, the foil to the sullen electronics.  At times, a layer of strings hides in the back, playing through silk and gauze, while sibling strings occupy the front.  The tone is split between warning and sorrow, as if saying goodbye to someone who got what he deserved.  But there’s also a dark nobility to the extended piece, which crouches until the eleventh minute before rising to its full height.  The title says it all: Mirage.  This is not salvation.  The closer one gets, the more one realizes that one has lost.  Before the end, there was only this final, cherished illusion.

These releases take different paths, but arrive at the same bleak destination.  This is autumn, after all, and darkness is drawing near.  Play these releases while reading your favorite dark horror tales; the ghosts will enjoy reading over your shoulder and listening with invisible ears.  (Richard Allen)


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