Review: Celephaïs – Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

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Ordo Viatorum surprised us first with the split between Neugeborene Nachtmusik and Onont Kombar, to us they seemed like an off-shoot to Enfant Terrible at first – though they share common ground in a lot of aspects – this label is run by Jeroen Holthuis and Maurice Hermes. The label is even more experimental, if that is even a possibility. The second release to be reviewed on Repartiseraren came out in November last year, and features the first album of the duo Celephaïs – Ian Martin (Kaval, Opfer) and Jeroen Holthuis, titled “Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens“.

We were sent a physical vinyl (limited edition of 300) which is remarkable in all its simplicity, but more on that later on in this article, as we’re about to show you the full layout of the release itself in the pictures below.

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Gladly enough, there’s nothing negative to report about in the shipping process, everything looks pristine and is working as intended. So here’s where PostNord actually didn’t screw up in terms of delivery, a once in a lifetime experience. There are two more pictures which feature the A-Side and the B-Side of the vinyl itself, which can be viewed down below, and then we’re off to the aesthetic aspect of this release.

The aesthetic aspect of Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

It is clean, easy on the eyes and beautiful in its own particular way. White and black, some hints of light brown on the vinyls themselves, and the insert almost looks like a Rorschach-test. There’s always been hints of different colors beneath the black and white facade that Ordo Viatorium have portrayed before this release, there are subtle notions of something else hidden away that you’d have to look for before even finding it.

Even though the aesthetics aren’t that pleasing when it comes to the cover, it is simply because it is not something we’ve grasped and can relate to in any way, it feels like a profound release when viewing the package as a whole, but be wary of catching a mind-virus, as it feels like looking at something resized a million times as if it was originally viewed through a microscope.

Those kinds of aesthetics are not off-putting, but it is subliminal in a way that we cannot fathom – but the artists themselves had a clear intention of putting images in our heads – and that goes perfectly well with the music. It’s pretty standard for any experimental release to have something that doesn’t adhere to the norm – but it has rather become the opposite – that experimental aesthetics have set their own norm – which isn’t touching your soul in the same, rebel spirit as it may once adhered to.

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The musical aspect of Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens

As described earlier, this duo consists of Ian Martin and Jeroen Holthuis, both of them are no strangers to experimental electronic music. Ordo Viatorum is proving to be a viable platform for these projects to flourish, without the help from the outside and little to none recognition, which is wholly undeserved. The musical experience these two possess is what reveals itself in this debut-album, “Grey Dawn, Quaint Gardens“, now we’re going to delve into it as per usual – on a track-by-track basis – for the review.

Undreamed Dreams” is a paradox in itself by name, but it adheres to the concept in the title of the track, a dreamy and ambivalent soundscape set in motion by a hushed electronic motion that steadily creeps in on you. A boat that never reaches harbor, a train that huffs and puffs like the old days but never stops on a platform – a continuum between awake and asleep. It is a ghastly feeling to be caught in a limbo, the more you notice the vague and sensible touches put in there by the artists, the more uneasy it feels listening to it.

We conjure the most horrible thoughts, as time passes by this is where time stops for a while and feels like an eternity. Not even on the second track yet, and we’re not even upset because of boredom, but it is upsetting to be drawn in and latched on to musically – it feels like never letting go, a constant reminder that you can only affect as much of the world around you, but it doesn’t make a difference in the end. There are some beautiful nihilistic tendencies which gives off a cold, stale emotionally charged vibe.

The music itself is as if ambient were re-occupied by the greatness of Tim Hecker’s earlier material once again, just in a completely different setting. It is very European in style, and delivers what can be construed as a thoughtful but menacing barrage of noisy synthesizers, simple but provoking droned out sounds, abhorrent ringing sounds and rambunctious arpeggios – a wake-up call on a Sunday evening that Monday is tomorrow.

Resentful Of Awaking” is being hit by the sunlight when you just want to pass out, another day to tackle with inane activities. What becomes clear after two songs in is how accurate the titles are, they have not just been made up out of the blue, like most ambient songs have – they actually reflect themselves into the music, as it have reflected it back when first being named. This one is more beautiful in a calming fashion, though some of the sounds manage to send a chilling feeling down our spine. If we’d hear this every time we’d be waking up, we would’ve been filled with energy and optimistic about the rest of the day.

There is a certain nerve of darkness that smothers itself upon you, when the rain hits your window and you’re forced to endure walking through it on your way to work. When the music is so thought-provoking in different ways, and you can just soak it in – doesn’t matter if it is negative or positive – you know the musicians have succeeded. It is an art form if you manage to pull so many strings, so many nuanced feelings in between that can’t be written in words, that you should be aware of what talent you’ve amassed.

Damp Stone Spiral Stairway” is the best song overall on the A-Side of this vinyl, nothing beats the constant brooding, deep base tone that makes your head spin round and round like the vinyl itself on the turntable. You may feel nauseous, you may be a bit dissy after hearing it – but when paired with the flair and urgent sounds in the background – the atmosphere cannot get any better. Having built upon a solid ground, this uproots on itself and heads upwards, through the mountains. Have I ever wanted to witness Aurora Borealis in sound, this is it – or at least close to one of nature’s phenomenons – it is almost as if they’d want to mimic something like that with the sound.

When paired with the whole audio-visual experience, this song becomes even better and should solely be watched together with this video, even though it definitely holds up on its own. Some of the best combinations of ambient and experimental electronica in general that we’ve heard for quite some time.

Red-Roofed Pagoda” starts off with a whirlwind of buzzing sounds, spaced out electronic music and a more industrially-oriented paved way musically. There’s more surprising elements fused within the music itself, and chords that feel like they are going somewhere – rather then laying the emphasis on a massive atmosphere – it is more compact and solidified. It is heavy on the ears but not antagonistic in any way, there’s a seriousness that isn’t fading out any time soon, an urgency to deliver a musical message or show the way, despite what you think of it in your own mind.

Had there been any vocals on this one, they’d be suitable for power-electronics and industrial, but more so the last genre. It is almost as if there will come something that reminds you that it could be power-electronics or noise music, but they discard that run-at-the-mill option and go heavily into other territories of unexplored synthesis. An eye-opener for anyone interested in those genres, as it is most often invested in what came before but not on what comes next, or what could be morphed into something in between all of that.

A Violet-Coloured Gas Told Him” is by far our least favorite song, it doesn’t swing the rope as high as the others and instead falls short. There is a short way to climb, but this is as if something was concocted in a laboratory, where the main focus wouldn’t be on establishing anything to bridge over from the gap the last song left, to the song after this one. Unfortunately it feels bland and uninspiring, though some moments of it leaves more to the listener in terms of experience.

Here’s where they jumped ship for the first time, there really isn’t anything that makes you feel anything. If that is the point – then they’ve succeeded – if not, then they’ve failed miserably, unfortunately. We’ve tried to listen to it multiple times, but it barely gets interesting on the end of it, but then we’re all deaf ears.

Good thing to be caught up in “They Seemed To Gallop Back Through Time“, as it saves the evening, literally. Despite being the last song on the vinyl, it proves to be a great outro as well as a song, heavily invested in intangible themes and a compromise between atmospheric electronica and the more industrially oriented side of Celephaïs. There are also some oriental vibes caught in between all of this, but as they fade out it begins to get more scarce with that. Then – all of a sudden – they jump back into it, more outdrawn and less stoic, more psychedelic and with a vengeance.

What do we think of this album all-in-all? It is probably one of the greatest debuts we’ve heard in these genres, and we’re interested in what will happen in the future for Celephaïs. They provide you with something different, even though you hear similarities with other artists and groups, but they don’t affect your judgement when listening to this. To get the ultimate experience, you definitely have to get the physical edition of it, the vinyl – from Ordo Viatorum. You can listen to some of the full tracks from this mix Jeroen made for SEER 334, down below.

 

[9th] December: Skulsyr – Blodrengr

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TheOld Ways” (read: wicca) are reinterpreted into a occult ritual noise ‘ensemble’ manned by one individual—Samantha, known from T.O.M.B. and Dreadlords. Skulsyr is her solo-project; whose intent seem to mixture Coven ritualism through experimentation with blackened noise and dark ambient. Intriguingly enough, the word “Syr” is a nickname for the Norse goddess Freya’s magical swine—a ‘Hildisvin’ (battle-boar). ‘Syr’ can also mean “sow“. Either “Skul” is referring to World of Warcraft, or something out of the Prose Edda, though a deeper intention of the name might not be thought out. It must be related in one way or another to neo-paganism and Norse mythology to a certain degree—but Wiccan solemnization runs through like a drawn line in red. The year goes around in seasonal festivals—different holidays for different months.

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She’s actualized for Ljudkalendern with an exclusive track newly produced for that purpose for 9th December. The track was recorded during Samhain—a sabbat where you generally celebrate those who’ve passed on. So the ritualistic tone was already set, considering what month it was recorded in: November. Although a solo-project, her track which is called “Blodrengr” (Blood Warrior) was created together with Duncan McLaren (Enneract) on vocals, Samantha can be heard banging a tribal drum and she’s conjured a hazy atmosphere which lets you delve into a maze of brooding, sinister but captivating music. From Duncan’s eerie distant chanting to an ever so present drumming, fading away into otherworldly hymns created on what sounds like thin air—as the gloomy cloud disperses. It might be so poetic that it actually does not need any poem because it’s self-descriptive.

Here a ritual begins and ends in the blink of an eye, though at great length. Tomorrow here will be another track but for the 9th December this place is reserved for Skulsyr and her track “Blodrengr“.

Exclusive Premiere: Hidden Place – Gioco Cromatico (V.2)

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A compilation was born after four albums, with two years between it and the last album they made. Hidden Place have since long found their niche in synth-pop, minimal wave and new wave. Before they had more experimental influences that soared through a wondrous landscape, but now they channel it down to a common denominator – focusing their darndest on combining Italian geography and language to make something of their own. It seems like it’s even more noticeable now how they sneak in more versions that haven’t been released earlier, or if they have been – the focus have been lying more with the, by now “international” language – English. They have a treasure trove ready to be dug out and it has partly been done with the first compilation, released on the UK-based label Peripheral Minimal. It was named “Retrospettiva: 2004 – 2014“, which as it’s name portrays, holds a rather keen look through nostalgic lenses on the past, mainly unlocking already existing tracks and putting them in a new context – a date where they first were contemplated.

Now after dozen months, Peripheral Minimal still holds the torch that lights the beacon upon where the follow-up will be presented. Peripheral has the key that opens up and gives a summary to the rather underestimated legacy that Hidden Place have brought with them. Whether or not you prefer to listen to them, there’s something which hits the right spot when you listen to their music. Even though it sometimes fades into a more commercial landscape along the road, there’s something well-thought out between their layers of music. I’m not sure if you can pin it down exactly when listening to it, but you’ll probably know what I am talking about. So the second compilation and the follow-up to the first one is now closing in. It carries the exact same title but now we’re at “Retrospettiva Vol. 2“. Let’s hope there’s a gem or two hidden beneath the rugged stone, and that you’ll get some unheard tracks you can listen to in your headphones or on your stereo.

Repartiseraren have gotten hold of a track from this forthcoming compilation. There’s a clear difference to much of their material which could be heard on the first volume, even though you’ll know it’s them – a polished but rough environment steps in and carries everything – leaving a burden on your shoulders. Their language of choice should certainly be Italian, because for someone that doesn’t understand the language, it actually sounds a lot less cheesy. A certain uplifting emotion grabs a hold of you when you listen, but when you listen to this track – melancholia knocks on the door. For your listening pleasure you’ll receive the track “Gioco Cromatico (V. 2)“, taken directly from “Retrospettiva Vol. 2“, exclusively on here and nowhere else. Stream it directly and feel an uncertain breeze flow through you. Artwork was created by Oleg Galay.

Exclusive Premiere: Zex Model – Rokk

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Pink Sexdeath, Degenerate Slug, Demon City Reaper? Three names have one thing in common – they’re all names thought out – and executed in musical form, by a man living in Kaliningrad, Russia. Not only does he have all those alter-egos, but many more that I won’t list. He is or have been a part of two groups called Modern Howl and Ninika, each one different from the other, but also closely knitted together by darker genres. Even though he’s had a lot of projects going on at the same time, he’s dabbling with a special kind of project which he calls “Zex Model“. This musical project started out not too long ago and pushed him further into musical obscurity than what you’d think. Considering this, his project has risen in popularity since his first releases – and opening for Lust Of Youth in Russia. With his official debut-album “Mind Slaughter” having been released on desire records in 2013, and a self-released EP titled “First Mutation” – he solidified his presence further. Once a darling in the brooding underground, now a good rated artist fit for another level in the underground.

Simultaneously in another part of the world, a man by the name of Fade Kainer (Theologian, etc) self-releases his first album “Mask Visions Poison” under the name of Statiqbloom. This is in 2013. America have gained yet another notable industrial-act that strays away from the cliches, and embraces their own version of what inspired them in the first place. Meaning; they decide to twist the originals of the 1980’s and 1990’s by layering their own vision upon the ground which those men built upon. The building blocks are on a steady ground. The album itself sells out on cassette and remains on CD up until now. Two alternatives offered, one bought and sold. Even though both Zex Model and Statiqbloom are very much alike, the last-mentioned relies on heavy electro beats and a body rhythm, whilst Zex Model is utilizing the rough texture of industrial on experimental soil; to the maximum. Then we entered 2014 and brooding for Statiqbloom was yet another album which he gave the title “Black Mirrors“, released only on a limited edition cassette. This was to be a release before two kings met up and decided to build upon a platform settled by them both, and others. Diplomacy entered the game and here we are.

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Fast-forward to later October, early November this year and you’re in for a treat. It was only a matter of time until desire brought these two new-comers closer together. In regards to their sound, it was a sound choice. Zex Model and Statiqbloom engage in a split-release that features eight tracks in total and four tracks by each artist. The apt design for this release is what Fade Kainer thought out and did. From the first four “Atropy Of Three“, “Contaminate“, “Slow Void” and “Behind Glass (Second Pane)” courtesy of Statiqbloom on side one. To side two featuring “Forbidden Alterations“, “Rokk“, “Teosophia” and “Tokyo Blitz” by Zex Model. I chose the second track “Rokk“, because of the atonal message that is what makes his project what it is in the first place. From his ode to Skinny Puppy and the likes, to his experimentalism that fiddles with a classic industrial atmosphere and makes the atonality spin the wheel – a confusing sound which at first obfuscates the rhythm – but later on is quite a trip into the originality of his project. A harsher version of Nexus Kenosis might actually find a way through your mind, intentionally or not. Stream the exclusive track “Rokk” down below and see to that you buy the vinyl from desire records when it comes out, if you like what you’re hearing.