Maurice De Jong, the infamous mastermind behind a myriad of projects, the most notable of which are of the benevolent, pitch black noise and drone of Gnaw Their Tongues and the schizophrenic, electronic black metal of Cloaks Of Altering. Given his penchant for darkness and unrelenting anguish under his other guises, De Jong pulls a surprisingly uplifting album out of the bag with this new offering. Sadly the previous Aurora Borealis release ‘1973’ under the Seirom name flew under my musical radar, so no comparisons can be made against the previous effort, but for those of us only familiar with his other output you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
The first two tracks on the album fit together wonderfully, weaving intricate layers of atmosphere and muted orchestration with meticulous detail, the resulting effect bringing together elements akin to the blissed out experimentation of Christian Fennesz and the shoegaze/post-rock vibes of Jesu with residual shards of black metal and psychedelia thrown into the mix for good measure. ‘I’m So Glad To Have Been A Part Of You’ kicks things up to a different level, from the restrained opening synth through the melancholic but strangely euphoric vocals and occasional bursts of bass and guitar, the track is spellbinding, right through to the emotionally crushing finale. ‘Starshine’ finishes off the first half of the album; here the black metal vibe is playing centre stage, though the overall effect is far from menacing and bleak but instead ethereal and quite transcendent. Particular point should be made to the creeping bass that surfaces mid track, it sits so well within the piece that I could not wait for it to drop on repeated listens and made my hairs stand on end every time.
‘The Best You Can Be’ plays out like a soundtrack piece, in the same vein as Mogwai in terms of flow and their ability to sonically craft emotion with ease, the distant piano and dreamy female vocals suck you in and the Krautrock elements keep you hooked, another fantastic track. ‘Leaving’ is probably my favourite on the album, the intro alone is mesmerising, broken soundscapes play out in the background like forgotten memories backed by an ever evolving and soaring guitar, but again it’s the bass that hits you, all the elements bring to mind the more ambient sections of Burial’s output (the dub/grime producer not the death metal guys) – as bizarre of a reference point as that may be, just give it a whirl and you will see what I mean.
The final trio of tracks kicks off with ‘Exalted’ which lays down blast beats as the backbone to the whole piece with layers of guitar, distortion and swathes of electronics providing the chaos, a chaos which is carefully restrained and implemented in such a way that does away with boundaries and musical preconception. The final two pieces play out the end scenes in typically epic fashion, focusing more on the ambience and orchestral work to serve up the ending in true soundtrack fashion, bombastic and stunning in every sense.
I can’t lavish praise on this record enough, suffice to say that if your partial to experimental and truly original music this should be in your catalogue as soon as possible.
Scribed by: Todd Robinson