Kristian, Shalabi, and St-Onge. It seems fairly straightforward. David Kristian is an electronic musician from Canada who has created albums in many different genres (I particularly enjoy his Beneath The Valley Of The Modulars), while Sam Shalabi is a musician that has played in scores of Canadian bands, most notibly in Godspeed You Black Emperor! and heading up his own band The Shalabi Effect (whose recent Trial Of St-Orange also blew me away). Alexandre St-Onge plays upright bass in the latter group, as well as other musical projects.
Needless to say, based on the names above, I was hoping for a genre-bending exercise, the likes of which had never been heard before. In some respects, that's exactly what happens on this release, although it's definitely not for everyone. Over the course of 8 tracks and 50 minutes of music, the trio has put together a highly eerie combination of their three instruments, and it's one of the more challenging releases that I've heard from Alien8 to date. The majority of the disc is sort of an exercise in the building of extreme tension, with very few points of release.
For that reason alone, the release will probably be a big turnoff to listeners hoping for elements from each of the individual artists to shine through. There are no crazy psychadelic breakdowns like you'd expect from Shalabi, nor are there any uber programmed electronics from Shalabi. The release opens with "Dirt Well," and gives a very good example of things to come. St-Onge weaves back and forth on the bass, creating almost scraping noises, while Kristian adds subtle layers of keyboard drones in the background. Shalabi adds plucked strings that would sound playful in any other situation, but sound downright foreboding here.
Evolving from the first track, "Building A Rope" brings the plucked elements to the front of the mix, while Kristian adds some super thick low-end drones. The two-part "Little Feck" follows up with one of the more interesting tracks on the release. After a somewhat scraping intro, the track morphs into swells of strings before shearing off into near silence. Instead of dead silence, though, Kristian has added a queasy, repeating loop of watery electronics sounds before the other two members come back in with strings to help keep it company.
There are moments where things don't quite live up to the potential, though. "The Heart Of A Mouse" marries clicky squeaks of electronics with scraped strings for far too long while "Insistant Falls" finds Kristian layering super noisy drones behind more scrapes on strings. Sometimes slightly maddening, and sometimes quite beautiful (in a creepy way), this definitely isn't an album that you can simply put on and let it drift into the background. Although there are a couple louder moments, most of the time it's so subtle that it gets lost in the background if you aren't at least paying some attention. Claustrophobic and not as immediately interesting as other releases by the members of the trio, there are still some interesting moments here.