Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Alchemical Mixture - Bridges To Dreams, The Pod, Oxtongue (album reviews)


Bridges To Dream - Victims
Highlights include: "Interieur du Delta" and "I Called Her
Storm".  From: Montreal, Quebec.  Rating: 3.5/5
Bridges To Dreams are aptly named, not that they put the listener to sleep, but because the music they create serves as a vehicle to the dream state.  Music can be an interdimensional gateway to unglimpsed worlds and 'Victims' provides the listener with rich fuel.  This is a clever band, who have been at the vanguard of the Montreal underground scene for years, a band who have mastered their craft: hypnotic drone with just enough constantly evolving background elements to start the rusty augur of imagination to churning.

They are an instrumental band that use a combination of live instruments and keyboard laden effects to paint clockwork worlds.

The album is bookended by classic rants by Charles Manson.  His interviews were always popular with certain of my crazy buddies because of the truths he articulated, which one imagines is how he accumulated such followers as he had.  The problem with 'Charlie', shown clearly in the clip used here by Bridges To Dream, the thing which separates the philosophers from the raving lunatics is his penchant for going too far down the rabbit hole, saying what's better left unsaid.  'Victims' on the other hand doesn't go too far down the rabbit hole while communicating only in unspoken messages.  Instrumental music that is like a time-lapse film.  A static, unflinching foreground image with a dynamic ever-changing background.

Normally, sampled, looped and otherwise digitally synthesized music doesn't go down too well with me, there are certainly exceptions and I don't like to be dismissive of someone's art just because I don't 'get it'.  So it took a couple listens for this album to sink in, but in the end, it did.  Actually, the way each small background element moves independently of the larger droney frame is quite artfully done, like wheels within wheels and truly does facilitate thinking and creativity.  Without knowing for certain I'm almost positive that Bridges To Dreams are not the first band to utilize this technique but the effect was stunning when I noticed it working on me.  The 'wheels within wheels' framework actually kicked this bucket of bolts that I call a brain into motion and I almost had to laugh when I realized what the music was doing to me.  It was truly impressive.

The Pod - Assassins In The Mirrored Hall
Highlights include: "The Analeptic Ritual" and "Citadel of
Mirages".  From: Chapel Hill, NC.  Rating: 4/5
The Pod is something else entirely.  More straightforward.  No sly dynamics.  Purity in slow motion.

Yes, that's the phrase, slow motion.  "The Analeptic Ritual" sounds as though it's actually a slowed down recording and who knows whether it is or isn't, but that's the feeling one gets from it.  Everything is fluid and flows in otherwise regular patterns, it just happens to be at a speed that isn't quite up to the speed of waking life, that isn't quite natural.  This technique has an effect on the listener.

As each of the six tracks on the album play out one wonders where they are going and that makes them strangely compelling, but that is surely the wrong mindset.  This is less about 'physical' travel, more about achieving an alpha state and the work must be done by the listener alone.  It's astral travel music along the lines of Chad Davis' current project of focus Romannis Mötte.

Like Romannis Mötte, The Pod is the work of one man, Scott Endres, guitarist of the punishing post-sludge band MAKE.  This album takes the band's long post-metal ambient passages and spins them into an hour long record.  This is actually The Pod's third full-length and fifth release in total.  'Assassins in the Mirrored Hall' finds Endres giving his mad scientist compositions more room to breathe, there's a feeling of completeness, of the compositions having been allowed to run their full logical course.  There are fewer tracks, but they are more fully realized finding fuller expression.

There is progression here, it comes agonizingly slowly but the listener's saint-like patience will be rewarded although this record cannot be recommended for those with ADD.  As previously stated, this isn't the kind of record one puts on looking to "get somewhere".  Once again this album is like a gateway of its own, darker perhaps in tone or 'flavor' than 'Victims', more distorted with less solid ground to stand on, less for the listener to dig in and find firm footing.

Oxtongue - Where The Light Is Mute
Highlights include: "Humanity: Born In The Way Of Eternal Grief" and
"Anguish: Abide With Suffering".  From: Canada.  Rating: 4/5
But whatever footing one finds with The Pod quickly cracks and splits at the hands of the next band in our lineup, Oxtongue who plunge the llistener into darkened icy depths.  Oxtongue are the dirtiest, filthiest band ever featured on this blog, hands down.

Of the three albums featured here, Oxtongue's three song 31 minute offering most resembles a straight-forward collection of songs.  The listener will find long drone passages and moving song structure in equal measure.  Oxtongue's blackened drone sludge is a harsh slog through the frozen tundra handcuffed to a corpse, foot caught in a bear-trap.  Heartbreaking riffs and soul devouring drums pave the way for waves of filthy yet often mournful vocals like ghosts dressed in smoke.

Oxtongue's ear raping is brutal and merciless and not for the faint of heart.  Those suffering from depression should either steer clear or come running depending on temperament.  Those with megalomaniacal tendencies and the insane are advised to turn back at this point as well because this EP is likely to tip one over the edge.

Where the band really makes the most noise is in the wind-swept open spaces where drone reigns as king.  This is where the listener enters the realm of nightmare.  Oxtongue's brand of drone is deafening and pitiless as a stalker in the woods.  At the frayed ends of these droney passages one is likely to witness the agony-crazed lashing of a dying animal, as comes toward the end of "Cessastion: The Shade Rapes Nativity".

So we come to the end of the line having been stalked by smokey ghosts across a frozen tundra to find oneself on a frozen lake hidden by snow only to hear the ice snap and echo across the plains.  The listener plunges in and it's at that moment the world moves into slow motion and astral travel is achieved.  The horror of reality too painful to endure.  At the bottom of the lake all life ceases in a clockwork environment, a life suspended in time lapse to ponder endlessly, wheels within wheels.

Genre: Drone, Sludge, Ambient

Release Date: December 1, 2012 (Bridges To Dreams); March 1, 2013 (The Pod); January 15, 2013 (Oxtongue)

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Press play at the moment that dream becomes reality and all your hidden fears come true.

Better Reviews:
Temple of Perdition Bridges To Dreams review
Sludgelord The Pod review
Heavy Planet The Pod review
Ech(((o)))es and Dust The Pod review
Sludgelord Oxtongue review
Sludgelord Oxtongue interview

Oxtongue official website

Special thanks to Steve Howe for recommending Oxtongue.

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