Saturday, May 9, 2009

Ophibre/Hunted Creatures – Split [Oph Sound]/Hunted Creatures – The Failure of Human Instincts [Dynamo!]

Benjamin Rossignol a.k.a. Ophibre sent the most recent release from his Oph Sound label, a split between himself and Ryan Emmett’s Hunted Creatures project.
Ophibre takes the first side with a single piece “A Harem of Moths.” It’s a great piece of electric drone working with relatively low pitches, and shifting and structuring the sounds very subtly. Definitely a piece of music for headphones. I’m not sure what Ophibre uses as a sound source but I’d venture a guess it’s a synth and/or guitar, and there’s lots of layers of it/them. The texture created is very full and strong, and higher frequencies are added as it looms along. It’s not really a melodic piece but there is a lot of effort taken to make the piece harmonically consistent, resulting in a gently, searing drone. This isn't harsh in the least but there’s a churning force and sharpness to it. A nice one to zone out to.
The Ophibre side is good but the Hunted Creatures side is phenomenal. With a breathy bass pulse, higher frequencies are manipulated and despite a melodic undercurrent, the piece is prone to violent outbursts of grisly feedback. Some instrument sounding like a cross between a bass drum and a guitar takes over with a thudding procession. Less ominous drones emanate thereafter resulting in a spacey, distorted flight. A looped keyboard melody and glistening feedback are used to great effect. Emmett exhibits a masterful conjuror’s hand, showing a sturdy sense of control over his sound, fitting lots of little pieces into a coherent fabric… and all this is done live. The second piece, "Himalaya of Skull,” is a bit more compressed, combining a number of the territories traversed in the previous live set. Buried keyboard melodies, swaths of noise, choral feedback, manipulated loops all brought together by overall sense of direction. For some odd reason the piece really sounds like trudging along through a forest of howling steampipes before stumbling down a rocky cliff. I don’t know, I gotta call it like I hear it. I’m so happy this side made it to cassette too cause it really brings out the warmth and aliveness of Emmett’s work here.
I also have a Hunted Creatures disc out on Ryan Emmett’s own Dynamo! imprint. As the record’s title might imply, it falls a touch on the bleaker side. “The Achievement of Nothing” observes crickets chirping for a fair amount of time. The first couple times I listened I just thought it was a field recording then I realized its actually a loop that Emmett manipulates very slightly at times and goes on to form a rhythmic basis for the piece before the feedback and fractured vocal loops kick in. “Accomplishment and Sentiment” features a distorted guitar loud and clear and barely audible little sounds collaged around it. A reversed guitar provides a nice counter-melody in the last minute. “Residual Man” sounds like it could be a live recording. The atmosphere is dingy and clanking which is offset by a mild but quite melodic loop that dies out after a minute. Things get more tumultuous until it’s all literally swallowed up by some white light sine tone. Distortion and a guitar/synth pad loop creep back in gradually to finish it off though. “Incapable of Flight” is one of stand-outs for sure. It is noticeably thicker and weightier than the previous tracks. There’s a loop of a guitar or keyboard or something buried under two tons of distortion. It feels massive and stony, and you can detect things going on underneath but can’t make them out completely. One of those times to relax and get steamrolled. A melody emerges near the end leaving a bit sweeter taste in the mouth. “Sleeping Under the Deadweight” is the most violent of the bunch, and after a rocky start, it begins blowin’ up a gale of harsh feedback. This baptism by fire leaves you primed for the finale, the magnificently titled “Mercy at the Hand of the Lord.” With a heavy bass drum and something sounding like a hybrid between a guitar and piano, the piece marches mournfully, sparsely forth. The track is the most emotionally affecting by far, and shows a really solid grasp on Emmett’s craft. There are only three elements here: a bass drum, the unidentified melodic instrument and silence. And with that limited palette, and a fairly repetitive structure, Emmett creates something at once lethargic, monolithic and beautiful. A really impressive finale.
I’d say the tape might be the preferred, and I think more recent, example of Emmett’s work to seek out (and you get to check Ophibre then too) but there are still a number of great examples in the CD-r as well. The tape comes packaged rather elaborately with textured, white cardboard—which release info is printed on—wrapped around a case with wraparound see-through paper cover with geometric print and then tape labels with an even cooler print. Top marks go to Ben for his Oph design skills. The CD-r comes in a black digipak. Both releases are still available as far as I can tell.

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