Sunday, June 24, 2012

Baldruin - Nachtfalter [Brave Mysteries]

Wisconsin's Brave Mysteries was very kind in sending over a couple recent tapes including a sweet tape by Eolomea (a collaboration of Andre Foisy from Locrian and David Reed a.k.a. Envenomist) but the subject of today's review is by Baldruin.
I believe Nachtfalter is the second full-length tape from Germany's Johannes Schebler (also the proprietor of SicSic Tapes) after the very nice Schatten & Lichter on Cae-sur-a. Nachtfalter is my favorite of the two as Schatten & Lichter features liberal use of reverb (not necessarily a bad thing) and has a dronier vibe. I think Schebler's work benefits from a little more clarity on the production end because his compositions already innately possess such potent atmospheres.
Nachtfaulter reminds me a bit of song cycles of the likes of Schubert and others, known as lieder if my memory serves. I don't know a whole lot about lieder so I may be talking out of my ass--knowledgeable minds please dismiss me. Anyhow, I love how each short piece exudes the tape's collective vibe while taking you a little further down the path.
Schebler's album is comprised of 12 tracks, ranging from 30-40 seconds to a few minutes. The listener is treated to a series of vignettes that produce an eerie, dream-like quality over their course.
"Irrweg" begins like a lullaby, an echoing chiming melody, with drones soaring and descending and a few clinks and clanks for atmosphere. It's little more than an introduction but performs its deed perfectly. "Wildwuchs" jars you initially with sharp flute bleats and discordant zither. Schebler builds around those sounds adding rather pretty reversed samples and subtle lo-end rumble. By the piece's end, it's become a fantastically complex composition in a short span of time. Really great stuff.
"Undine" invites you into a thicket of muted strings, chimes and tambourine. They form a percussive bed of sorts in which Schebler can lay his drones via violin and another instrument I can't quite pinpoint. On "Hohlraum," Schebler strips away a lot of layers leaving only a couple bowed drones. It's a really nice passage and stands out on a tape full of more ornate arrangements.
"Am Hang" prominently features a chorus of ghouls. The lead ghoul starts speaking in tongues--German, probably, but it's all tongues to me. The words echo and fold over each other against a short chiming loop. Not sure what its saying but it sounds a little creepy by my estimation. Voices continue into "Sackgasse" with a whistle(?) solo and sporadic clatter. A low-rumble rears its head periodically making the whole affair more unsettling. Looking for a realistic, subtle soundtrack to your nightmares? This may be the one.
On the second side, "Siebente Reise" creates a dense little environment with a series of drones, field recordings, sprinkles of percussion and the repeating thump of a guitar chord.
"Spiegelung" begins with a really lovely melody. Voices join in consonant harmony. Things must be looking up; the beauty is fleeting but powerful. Not only can Schebler creep you out, he can enchant with the best of them.
"Weit drauben" takes you right back into chilly chimes but there seems to be some birds calling and crickets chirping. I can't quite tell if they're field recordings or if Schebler came up with a synthetic way to emulate to said creatures. They don't sound entirely real. A dank, detuned acoustic guitar leads "Schurfwunde." Seemingly recorded in a dungeon somewhere, a tambourine rattle echoes every so often. Prison blues, period-gothic-style.
"Die Purpurinsel" changes things up a little, it's heavy on the percussive layers and they're actually relaying some fairly grooving rhythms. Schebler fades those gradually into a wonderful composition of synth, chimes and voice pads. It's an almost intoxicating concoction; one my favorite moments on the tape. The brief finale "Xerooomus" has a little edge to its fidelity. It's rougher; trafficking in (what I think is) reversed/manipulated radio static. 
All in all, this is a really cool tape. While Schebler provides suggestions of darkness, the music itself, as far as timbres go, is fairly bright. He generally avoids the more conventional creep-out routes which I appreciate. The tape seems, to me anyway, to be about altering the environment its played in. And it certainly does one hell of a job at that.
The thing comes pro-dubbed, shrink-wrapped, the works--along with Schebler's Silence of the Lambs-ish artwork, what more could you ask for?

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