Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ixchel – Dreams Of [Leaf Trail]

This CD-r is the first release of the duo Ixchel, the newest project by Tim Hurley (known for his work in AuxOut favorites Quetzolcoatl, Bonecloud, and the Leaf Trail label) and Barry Semple.
My favorite track starts the album off. “Landing Hallucinations” is drenched in sound (a characteristic of Hurley’s projects), thick with field recordings, reverbed synthiness and a distant harmonica. The title is fitting because the track sounds like oceanside audio hallucinations. The track is a bit on the meandering side but, to its strength, the guys keep it brief. The albums longest track “The Bubble Hiders & Rainbow Ocean” slowly builds glistening waves on top of each other including a ghostly piano and a muted but insistent percussive pulse before breaking off 3 minutes in, giving way to strummed guitar and glockenspiel. That combo in turn is built upon reaching a gentle zen. There’s a nice contrast/balance between sharper plinking sounds and smooth sustaining tones. Everything dissipates once more. A simple and amazingly hypnotic guitar passage leads the first half of “Globe of Leaves in Sky of Sea” before it’s augmented by piano increasing the hypnotic factor. There’s some non-effected vocalizing that crops up near the end as well. “Clockwork Castles”, after some quickly strummed electric guitar morphs into a languid dream pop tune. I’m really digging the accordion/harmonica/whatever that accents the track. Additionally, I like how, near the end, the background instrumentation shifts and discombobulates, subverting the sweetness of the vocal’s intent. “War Paint” is an extended interlude with clattering drippy sounds being blown at each from all directions. “Sun Bridge Believer” is another episodic track, the first bit is quite good though those uneffected vocals don’t gel with the proceedings an kinda get in the way rather than blending into the murky beauty of everything else. After the first part fades, the rest of the track is a dark little cavernous crawl to the light of “Dreaming New Colours”. “Dreaming New Colours” is quite a cool piece featuring a well executed tempo pickup in the second half. The vocals fit a little better here, but don’t quite find their place. “Surf of Awakening” seems like the companion piece to opener “Landing Hallucinations” and closes out the album rather abstractly with shoreside field recordings and lots of other sounds hiding behind reverb pedals. The album reaches its roughest, stormiest point with low rumbling jutting against a sample of breaking waves. The last few minutes achieve what I think was the goal of the album—to combine experimental/drone with more song-based pop type stuff—there’s a plaintive ballad trying breakthrough the aquatic cacophony but just can’t quite do it. And it’s sound rad.
I respect Ixchel’s approach to making music—they have the whole abstract soundscape down—but, on Dreams Of, the more “pop” elements, namely the vocals, are a liability more often than not.. However, based on that final track the guys are definitely capable of pulling it off and I’m betting on subsequent efforts they’ll have it perfected. Still the pros vastly outweigh the cons, and overall Dreams Of is another example of the uniquely great sounds that only come from Tim Hurley and his collaborators.
The CD-r comes in an oversized pro-printed slipcase with an insert and artwork by Hurley.

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