Though not the sort of thing normally seen gracing the hallowed pages of The Sleeping Shaman, Dead Fader‘s ‘Blood Forest‘ is an interesting experiment in electronic music. One half of a two-album release (the other being ‘Scorched’), it is overwhelmingly disorientating. Dizzying sounds, weird twisting melodies and sinister swelling bass lines jostle against each other. Almost every song is strangely nostalgic, lending the album an eerie, haunting quality. It’s like listening to a melting LP playing a 70s space opera soundtrack.
The opener, ‘Emclod‘, sets the tone for the whole album. It is both dreamy and increasingly aggressive, unsettling the listener. The pleasant, meandering melody never quite fits beat, as though the tune is always trying to catch up with itself. Bass swells begin to stab through the haze and violently ground the song in a recognisable beat. This combination of twinkling leads and sinister bass encapsulates the tone of ‘Blood Forest‘; always murky, and always on-edge.
As soon as I got comfortable with ‘Emclod‘, the wildly swaying synths of ‘In Cover‘ made me lose my bearings all over again. The track begins with a solid, bass-heavy beat, but it’s undermined by wobbling and reverb-drenched chords. It feels as though the melody is never played the same way twice; I can’t be sure if that is really the case, but it certainly seems to be. But the song’s closing section, with nostalgically wavering organs and Flash Gordon-style synth, captures the essence of this album. Its like watching a classic monochrome movie through milky cataracts.
‘Neet Swim‘ is the soundtrack to the most terrifyingly tense boss-battle never played. Reminiscent of Aphex Twin and even Clark’s darker output, the song blares out like a siren, whilst a trapp-influenced beat holds down a pulse. It’s almost overpowering, and the sudden transition to the ambient ‘Drown‘ comes not a moment too soon. The track’s echoing backdrop sounds like it was recorded in an empty swimming pool, in the style of Jacob Kirkegaard’s melancholic field recordings. Dead Fader seems interested in defining the line between tension and pure abrasion, and at times ‘Blood Forest‘ dances right on that line.
The album changes style and sound constantly, adding to the haunting effect. It might seem strange to say that something so focussed on heavy percussion and harsh synths could be ethereal, but ‘If Ever‘s’ distorted and shifting wail is just that. It’s both abrasive and melancholic, like the lament of a dying computer. Yet ‘Blood Forest‘ also features fast-paced, happier tunes like ‘Dettol’, a song that could have sat happily on Clark’s ‘Body Riddle’. Of course, the track is steadily detuned over the course of four minutes, in keeping with the album’s demented aesthetic.
None of this is to say that the album is too abstract and plain weird to grasp. Dead Fader offers some more straightforward tunes, like the hip-hop groove of ‘Tenblum‘ complete with a great organ synth sound, and the Latin flair (fused with the noises of a post-apocalyptic robotics factory) of ‘Lousey’. But Boards of Canada-like pitch-shift and modulation are always around to stop you from getting to comfortable.
Whilst initially under the impression that ‘Blood Forest‘ dragged a little towards the end, I eventually realised that the album structured fairly well. Later tracks seemed a little more conventional, less tense. But the album is a balance of chaotic insanity and sinister calm, as songs like ‘In Cover‘ show, and the latter half is firmly camped in the sinister calm. The effect isn’t perfectly executed; for me the semi-random pitch-shifting of the more accessibly formulas gets a little predictable. Though I do appreciate the way that Dead Fader has structured the album, I still return to the first half of the album more frequently.
‘Blood Forest‘ is a twisted and disturbing walk through the electronic world. It has an eclectic mix of styles: ambient, breakbeat, even some techno and trapp. But they are all united by an unsettling familiarity. It’s well worth a listen. Just don’t expect to sleep well afterwards.
Scribed by: Will Beattie