Eric Chamberlain ~ Quadratura Cinetectura

Years have passed since the last ambitious industrial album.  While we had given up hope, we still held on to the possibility that such a thing could happen.  The dual surprise is the fact that such an album has appeared, and the source of the appearance.

A quarter-century ago, Eric Chamberlain was known as Index.  He released a series of albums and EPs on COP International before changing his moniker to Index A.I.  Perhaps the best was Sky Laced Silver, the finest track “Static Sky.”  The arrangement is intricate, although the guttural vocals ~ now absent for the most part ~ demand the bulk of the attention.  YouTube had not yet been invented, but for the sake of comparison, here’s Wilting from Never This Affliction, released the same year.  One can already detect grand cinematic flourishes, a sense of grand drama, the dual backdrop of dark ambience and industrial beats.

At 3 hours and 26 minutes (plus a separate 46-minute single!), Quadratura Cinetectura is one of the longest albums many will ever own.  Sadly, the set is only available in digital format, a dilemma we hope will be rectified soon, especially as the digital album is mixed at 1995 levels (play any old CD for comparison).  Everything an instrumental industrial music fan could want is here, from floor fillers to extended mood experiments.  The beats are fast and heavy, the synth patterns even more intricate than in their first incarnation.  Chamberlain incorporates ivories, choirs, samples and a palpable sense of excitement.  In its loudest moments, the music approaches the realm of metal, honoring his former label.  Quadratura is “a wall or ceiling painted with columns and arches” (ex. Andrea Pozzo,Triumph of Sant’ Ignazio of Loyola), while Cinetectura is the name Chamberlain has given his music, a portmanteau of cinema and architecture that reflects his history of film scoring and directing.  His new project represents both a continuation of his 90s sound and an evolution.  Hearing it is like meeting a lost childhood friend, all grown up.

The best way to listen is straight through: the same way one experiences a film.  While the artist might have compromised his vision, cutting a segment here and there, one of the advantages of a digital self-release is that one is not beholden to editors.  In like manner, Chamberlain distributes influences throughout the album: ambient, industrial, metal.  This being said, one may perceive this project in three general, although not distinct phases.

Phase I begins with the opening overture, one of the shortest selections and an accessible entry point.  Over the course of the set, the length of the tracks will grow to quadruple their original size (and as previously mentioned, triple that on the single).  “Breath of God” is catchy and clubaike, a gift to Index fans.  Soon after this, the piano and guitars will begin to dual for control of the sonic space, like the forces of light and darkness so clearly referenced in the titles.  By the sixth piece, the choral elements have forged their way forward.  “Angelic Engineering: Inverted Sky Chamber 77-qrv22.084.b” is another standout, underlining a curious thought: that the word “sky” often signals a prime Chamberlain piece.  An early dramatic peak arrives in “Naga Nectar Transmission Mirror.”   The choir swirls in agitated fashion, backed by chimes: a war in heaven reminiscent of Milton.

Phase II kicks off with another clubworthy cut.  “Kultra Vaezha” is powerfully propulsive, the bass especially strong.  This phase peaks with the twin spiritual force of “Necrophasmic Synchomesh” and “Noctilucent Angel Sighs,” which bracket the more pensive “Soul Awaiting Birth.”  The choir occupies the entire foreground, a sign that one side may be pulling ahead, at least temporarily.  The closing seconds of “Necrophasmic” contain the album’s first audible “Amen.”  The phase ends in a whoosh with “Spiritual Ruins Glimmering In Pandemonium,” like a yanked phonograph needle.

And then there is debris, the cost of the war.  “Cirrus Architecture 02” is dark and disillusioning, far more broken than the earlier “01,” which contains the pings of broken cartoons.  Drone is now the primary tone, although it will ebb and fade over the remainder of the set.  More battles will ensue, although they now seem like afterthoughts or death throes.  “Lux Diadema” is particularly active, at 135 BPM a prime candidate for adventurous underground clubs.  The most nineties-minded of these 34 pieces, it also contains a hint of Index’s former growl.  “Lost and Found” is a symphonic requiem, leading to one final blast of energy before the long comedown.  “Cirrus Architecture 03” shatters into bits and pieces, and drone covers the battlefield like toxic dust.  The album’s final 24 minutes lack even a single beat.  All is irradiated.  Were there no winners, not even darkness?

Welcome back to an artist whose magnum opus gives fans even more than what they want: a battle on a cosmic scale, clashes in the clouds, far away and still too close for comfort.  (Richard Allen)

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