Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Celestial Light Beings

Early last year one of my favorite full lengths was delivered via an unknown producer who went by Desolate. It proved to be a fitting moniker, as it completely encapsulated his sound. His tracks spoke about isolation, anxiety and, well, desolation and despair, without ever mentioning a single discernible thought. He proved himself a producer who could craft emotion through music. I know it sounds cliché, but you didn't listen to "Invisible Insurrection" as much as you felt it.

At first glance it sounds like a dark take on the future-garage sound that dominated the blogsphere/ hipster ipods in late 2009 and throughout 2010. Of course Burial comparisons were inevitable, as the jittered percussion and reverberated samples that percolated throughout his tracks could certainly be seen as Burial-esque (and yes he is totally deserving of his own adjective in the musical dictionary). 

However, it wasn't until Desolate's true identity was uncovered that the whole album really clicked for me. Sven Weisemann and Desolate were the same artist, which really isn't surprising in hind sight. "Invisible" wasn't a jaded take on UK Garage, it wasn't even a Bass album at all. The tempos range around 108-115 bpm, rather than 130-140. Taking cues from Decoding-era-Alter Ego, Last Resort-era-Trentemoller and cinematic sound scapes, "Invisible Insurrection", as it turned out, was not a Burial clone at all, but rather a futurist take on techno.

Granted, this is far more melodic and far less driving than 99.99% of most techno produced EVER, but that's what makes it so endearing to listen to. Songs like "Cathartic" and "Divinus" had feelings, they had troubled, but optimistic personas, they had souls. They bared themselves to the listener and allowed you to get closer than most producers will ever let you get to their creations.

That brings us to the second full length offering from Sven under his Desolate guise. On this album, entitled "Celestial Light Beings", much of the despair has been replaced instead by serenity. There are for less anxious moments on "Celestial", instead, Desolate chooses to focus on the restrained optimism that occasionally poked its head through his otherwise bleak compositions on “Invisible”.

The opening track "Ambrosia" still features the same, echoed percussion, understated dub influences and generally downtrodden melodies, only now there are a few more pieces to grab our attention as well. There is a somber violin, and some light, singular, guitar notes which suggest something hopeful at the end of the journey. And indeed, the true moment of greatness is achieved when the piano kicks in sporadically which despite it's minor (the sad scale) progression, it actually creates a touch of the aforementioned blissful serenity.

The track "Desolation" takes this serene approach even further as it immediately calls to mind the "Tri Angle" sound of Balem Acab and co. Vocals are used heavily, but as distorted instruments as they are stretched and molded to create something entirely different than a conventionally sung vocal line. Yet, once again, this is not a clone offering, as it is imbued with enough proper dub elements to keep it sounding fresh and unique.

"Tearless of Lemnia", however, is very 90's trip-hop influenced. It doesn't take the name to immediately remind the listener of Massive Attack's timeless "Teardrop", as the two have very similar piano. Much like "Teardrop", "Tearless" has a somber tone, yet a piano that says "hey cheer up, everything is alright". Most tracks on "Celestial Light Beings" do hint at some type of joy-amidst-the-sorrow. On "Se7en" it is interestingly the rhythm which conveys this. It is hardly something that I would consider "playful", however, that is the first thing that comes to mind when assessing it.

Aside from a few moments, "Celestial Light Beings" doesn’t stray too far from “Invisible Insurrection”: the heavy dub influences, the sparse vocal samples, it’s generally dreary melodies across a variety of instruments. But now there are elements to each track that suggest that this is meant to be more than a journey solely about despair. The production is a little crisper, less reverberated, and the cinematic moments tend to hint at serenity, rather than loneliness. Both are very personal experiences, and while no one can accuse "Celestial Light Beings" of being a "joyous" record, it certainly hints at growth as an artist.  

Desolate - Celestial Light Beings (Fauxpas)

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