Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Album Review: Geskia! - Silent of Light

Album Rating: A
Amidst crazy dash-cam videos and the introduction of tentacles to all kinds of unholy places, Western culture is now well accustomed to looking east in order to fulfill its taboo-defying quota. When it comes to music, it should therefore be of no surprise to discover no one experiments quite like they do in the east. Russia is usually a pretty safe bet, with Volor Flex kicking up a dubstep storm very recently, but anyone after the real hard shit will want to go further: they’ll want to go to Japan.

Japan is currently enjoying a healthy presence in electronic genres often passed over here in the West for more urban strains like hip-hop or garage, and their cultural heritage often adds a unique twist to the sounds they dabble in. Even Japanese ambient often struggles to escape from the bright, sharp tones of their traditional music. As a result of this influence, the experimental music of Japan tends to possess a vibrancy absent in Western counterparts. Readers are encouraged to check out Himuro Yoshiteru’s Our Turn Anytime as a primary example.

Geskia(!) fits into all this from an unusual angle. Originally a breakbeat producer, he mellowed out quite unexpectedly last year with Muon: an uncharacteristically calm ambient/ glitch album which proved to be characteristically outstanding (#37 of 2012, no less). Silent of Light is a step back in the other direction and towards this cultural vibrancy mentioned earlier. The delicate touch is still present in the outstanding production and soundscapes, but within this landscape roars a metallic monstrosity spewing a complementary torrent of glitch, industrial and beats. The end result is playful and organic with a satisfying, mechanical crunch.

Percussion in Silent of Light borrows heavily from Geskia’s western IDM counterparts Autechre as it clatters, scatters and skips across the soundstage, though with a happier step. In “National Tradition” and elsewhere throughout the album, it takes on melodic attributes to handle a more prominent role, as well as fading into vague impressions of beats in other areas to accompany  dreamier, synth-led interludes. It’s a snapshot of the versatility of the album, which can see quick switches from piano leads to glitch and vocal sample madness to calm and pretty bleeps and bloops. However, while the intensity can vary dramatically the percussion remains the key driving force of the album: occupying the space often reserved for bass in contemporary western music.

If percussion is the engine -the modified machine begging to be revved- then the surrounding chassis is made up of the myriad subtleties in Geskia’s hypothetical musical vehicle. The making of Silent of Light is in its attention to detail, and the textures, echoes and drives of distortion transform a great album into an outstanding one. Sitting in a quiet room with headphones on displays just how many dozens of layers there are in his onion-like production. “Dis Love,” for instance, is saturated with vocal samples from beginning to end but avoids becoming overbearing by scattering them between sound channels and splicing them with separate instrumentation.

It’s easy forget the simple melodies presiding over the complexity. Geskia knows how to draw people in, and the initial attraction acts as the perfect sliproad to a highway of sound. These melodies often come in the form of clean, chirpy moog notes or more heavily distorted string progressions. While individually these may sound quite fragile, they’re held up by the sheer bulk of sound supporting them.
Happily, however, the melodies restrain themselves from becoming toooptimistic or drawing attention away from the more interesting aspects of Silent of Light .

The careful balance between melody, complexity and percussion results in a fantastically well produced album: one in which every sound is allowed to breathe and contribute to the combined total. After an album such as Silent of Light, the claim on his website that “Geskia is undoubtedly the master of Japanese underground hip-hop and breakbeats” doesn’t seem nearly as far fetched.


1. Horic Chronic
2. Accent Accept
3. Constract Contrast
4. National Traditional
6. Torch Approach
7. Joint Chant
8. Dis Love
9. Planet Plan
10. Glare Trigger
11. Xtra Schema
12. Creativity Quality

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