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I've had this on my computer for sometime now, and I never really liked it, but after a stunning KTL (another SOMA project) concert, I decided to get this album from the merch stand because of the sweet artwork and give it another chance. While I don't regret buying it- it has its' moments- It's just a little bit too avant garde and out there for me.
Again, it's not terrible, just a bit too weird. This is even less structured then Sunn, with plenty of seemingly random sounds of metal falling and cutlery clanging together amidst all of the sine wave experimentation and subtle glitch. The sounds of things falling and clanging on the floor create a lot of uneasiness in the pieces, and just really make the whole thing very tense. Nausika suggests that there's a theme of being stuck in an aquatic dead zone, and that seems pretty apt- the tension is really stretched out to uncomfortable levels at some points- just an endless waiting for some sort of change, some sort of release- a breath of wind to get the boat inching forward, so to speak.
Luckily, there is some release here and there within this album. The second song is a lovely, delicate piece, despite the suffocating tensions that lie within. Pure tones (some really high pitched) float through the clank and low drones, before some excellent synths come in near the end, taking the track to a ethereal and extremely satisfying ending. It's a lovely tune, put simply.
Unfortunately, it's also easily the best song on this album. Track 3 wanders around aimlessly for a few minutes then ends. Perhaps it's the whole 'ship stuck in the middle of the ocean with no wind' kind of vibe they're trying to create- and well, I guess they succeed with that, but it's not very enjoyable. The final song is probably the closest to normal music there is, for some reason it sounds like really detuned Circus Music being played at quarter speed. It's pretty atmospheric and in my current exhausted, tired state it sounds quite freaky but I'm not quite sure whether it's "good". The first song is basically the second tune minus the synths- again, it succeeds on the whole 'atmosphere' level but I don't really like it.
And I guess therein lies the problem with this CD. With the exception of the epic 2nd track, I don't really get a big kick out of it. I can see that it's been put together really well, and I'm sure if I wanted to I could stroke my (currently shaven) facial hair and ponder as to what exactly this record means, but I can't put it on in and go 'Yeah! This is great", which is a shame. Perhaps I just don't understand it, I dunno. Ijust don't like it that much, despite the fact that I think it's a really well written album. Meh, I'm tired and not making much sense. Go and get this album if you're a big fan of abstract ambient, but if you want to hear some nice, aquatic glitchy ambient, you should totally check out Tim Hecker's Harmony in Ultraviolet. Hell, even if you chanced upon this review by mistake, go and get Harmony in Ultraviolet! Just don't get this album, as it's basically 1 great song and 3 possibly-good-but-I-don't-understand songs.
Aethenor is a a noise /ambient / drone trio formed by musicians with backgrounds in doom metal, post-rock and modern prog rock of an experimental kind. This album, Aethenor's first, features all-instrumental ambient soundscpaes based around the idea of a ship far out at sea: whether this ship is sailing through heavy seas, marooned in an oceanic dead zone or is sinking is left to the listener to imagine.
The first track is a very strong and evocative opener: my mind's eye sees a huge, hulking ghost ship built centuries ago still plying the open ocean with a mind of its own, the original crew having deserted the vessel or simply disappeared. The wooden planks creak and groan, rusting chains snake over the deck as the ship crests over another wave, and the wind sighs through open doors and passages and the holes in the canvas of torn sails. This track and the others that follow have a huge, epic quality to them with a lot of deep space in the music: no doubt this is due to the particular recording and acoustic the musicians used and exploited, which is why each member is credited as having used "Room" as an instrument! The sound of the instruments which include piano, organ, guitar and a mini-Moog analogue synthesiser among others is clear without being sharp and has a slight echo, perfect for suggestive music conveying the idea of a huge skeleton ship with large cavernous spaces in it and the ominous feeling that ghosts still reside in the vast edifice.
The second track is a very fragile, floaty piece with delicate pure tones and a huge still silence disturbed sometimes by creaking industrial percussion, mysterious sounds of twitchy static and a long piercing drone which eventually are joined by an organ. This long spaced-out piece in which the ghost ship could be travelling underwater like a submarine, reminds me of a more gentle and delicate version of Darkthrone drummer Fenriz's mid-1990s ambient project Neptune Towers which dealt with an inter-galactic voyage of "caravans" on two related albums. The organ that comes in about halfway through the second track has a rich and lovely sound but tends to overpower the other instruments by its sheer volume.
The remaining two tracks are quite short and don't seem to continue the "story" of the ghost ship (assuming that there is a story) - they present differing views of the ship's being. The last track in particular emphasises a dark, murky and sinister view of the ship with slightly cloudy ambience and spaces that seem deeper than ever and full of malevolent promise. An alien hissy industrial rhythm with doll-like aspects dominates the second half of the track.
Overall the music is very beautiful and has a hypnotic quality that draws the listener into its vast spaces. I find it very lop-sided with the two long tracks up-front that show the ship lurching on the oceans and then underwater, followed by the two short pieces that paint snapshots of different aspects of the ship. Admittedly I tend to expect fairly long pieces of at least 6 - 8 minutes with descriptive ambient music so this album, lovely as it is, left me a bit frustrated and wanting more out of it. Probably a fifth track might have done it for me and left me more satisfied with the album but it might have gone against the musicians' intentions.
There is a lot of potential in Aethenor and I would like to see the guys pursue this dreamy drone / ambient music project for at least another two albums.