Sculptures by SpecimensRelease date: January 13, 2017
Label: First Terrace Records
Sculptures released 17th January is the debut album from Specimens and the first LP from the intriguing new label, First Terrace Records; a collective of ambient, electronic and experimental musicians rooted in London, just like ourselves.
From the opening ambient chime met with the distance hiss of sawtoothed ambience ‘Thuvian’ establishes Sculptures as an album of dichotomous, multi-faceted ambient electronic music utilising samples, pads and drones to build calms and strangle storms. ‘Thuvian’ is a suppressed form of disorder with whaling guitars muffled with riotous yelps weighted down beneath the surface as disinterested wind chimes sing overhead like everyone is oblivious to the immense plight of the everyday world like the unimaginable suffering experienced globally everyday reduced to the prosaic hum of electronic appliances in some complacent, suburban home, in a cosy western utopia of wealth and ignorance…seems like all people can really do in the helplessness and powerlessness of the situation is numb themselves with intoxicants and get lost in the white noise.
‘VI.VI.MMXV’ places the static centrefold in a post-industrial landscape of brooding subterranean bass and delicate, yet abrasive melody. The sophomore track on the album makes it abundantly clear that at its core it’s a disassociated, perilous journey to the heart of the uncaring and the unknown with a razor’s edge approach to relaxation that evokes a feeling of finding serenity in the bleakest corners of existence.
The first real turning point in the album is ’Organ Loops’ which starts off as a sort of early Marilyn Manson ambient interlude with an unsettling charm akin to some of the more ambient works of Aphex Twin. There’s a lot of layers contributing to the overall atmosphere of off-kilter, spaced-out relaxation that in a fairly narcotic manner starts off with a descending level of unease before gradually becoming more and more serene. There’s something bubbling under the surface but the waves of distortion become hypnotic and the keys becomes almost tranquillising which I guess makes it a good segue into the trippy and reptilian ‘Cerulean Forest Track’. This warped perspective of otherworldly and ominous crafts an almost cinematic sense of mystery as though it is the soundtrack or sound design for some neonoir thriller as it transmogrifies through ‘A Marble Hallway’.
The featured track from the album is ‘Touch’ and its evident from the off-set why that is the case; the mesmerising track is built on huge distorted guitar lines through a cosmos of reverb and delay like some benzo-ridden shoegaze dysphoria. Whacked-out and sad and yet, trance-inducing all the same, the track introduces bassier soothing elements but just blasts them away with heavier guitars increasing the feedback before collapsing in on itself.
‘Piano Loops’ is arguably even more disorientating as it begins with an intense passage of reversed and delayed piano sounds spinning round and round the head like one bong rip too many. As elsewhere on the album it eventually becomes soothing and settled and relaxed but, the sense of something lurking and waiting to come back around is never far away.
In ‘The Wrestler’, it comes back around, fucking hell, does it ever. The track opens with an assault of screams, bullet-like samples flying through, yelps and screeches and roars of humanity moulded together like the pain of a planet exploding in the distance; I’d have called it Alderon myself. Whilst the track may ease off, I’d say it is pretty much relentless for the most part; motoric rumblings roar like tanks even in the lighter parts as the album boils over into a repressed frenzy like smoke trying to escape a wood burner.
‘French Morning’ closes the album with a sad, accepting resolve; it’s lightly abrasive yet iridescent like the trailing glare of streetlights late in the evening; a fitting close for such a dichotomous collection.
Sculptures is a strong collection of experimental ambient tracks that does a good job of building intrigue both for Specimens and for First Terrace Records.