If This Way To Escape is any indicator, Mathias Anderson didn't have what most would probably consider a happy year. While he's always made music that is more uneasy than easy listening, his newest batch of 10 songs is even darker and more secluded than his previous In These Days Of Merriment. It's 52 minutes of subtle drones, noise, and sound samples, and it hits you like a negative 30 degree windchill. It's only late summer, but this is definitely winter music.
In addition, it also sounds a bit more angry. The opening track "Rest Without Fear," starts with the slightly-warbled sample of a bubbly music-survey recording, which sounds like it was cut directly from a phone-poll in which boy bands and teeny-bopper hits were the narrow choices for the future listening public. As the sample becomes more and more distorted, eventually it drops out, replaced by a haunting surge of panning noise. It isn't at a deafening volume, but as other subtle layers are added to it all, it becomes an eerie mechanical stew of machine-like factory output wrinkled with the occassional static. Just when you think things are going to get happier (as with the chiming, almost loungey opening of "Always Looking West"), the reality is shaken loose and chopped-up, sending you back down into a spiralling swirl of dronescapes.
As with his other releases, Anderson seems very fond of using absolutely twisted samples of both spoken word and obscure music and revels in the pitch-bent sound of what sounds like a reel-to-reel playing at slightly different speeds. The different samples on "Cloudy Life The Fields" are all strung together in such a way that most listeners will simply find it gut-wrenching. With a vocal chorus, mechanical noises, and other buzzes and pings running at warped intervals, it's like hearing a carwreck played in slow motion, back and forth just before the actual collision. You expect a big bang, but it never happens, just leaving you with a woozy, reeling feel.
There are a couple moments where the album seems to crack a smile, as on the repeating, somewhat bizarre samples at the beginning of "Evening Carnivale," but even that track drifts into a hazy sheen after the subconcious samples at the outset. There's no doubt that Anderson is refining his production as he continues working, but he's piled on things so heavily in most places with this release that it sometimes suffocates under its own weight. Not heavy as in metal, simply heavy sound. Fans of Coil and Boyd Rice will probably find compelling things here, but otherwise you'd best steer clear or get stir-crazy.