Thursday, March 7, 2013

Album Review: Witxes - Sorcery/Geography

Album Rating: B+
Ambient music has always struck me as an otherworldly entity. Its composition, its impact, and practically everything about it is so far detached from the normal parameters by which we judge music that it effortlessly distinguishes itself as a different beast entirely. The roots of ambience can be traced back to the mid 1970’s when a certain Brian Eno first coined the phrase; and he’s widely accredited with both its formation and its popularity. It has evolved and been infused with other electronic genres since then; including drone music. This is the focus of Witxes’ efforts, and some of the denser atmospheres that they craft on Sorcery/Geography are comparable to the more wandering moments on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! such as “Their Helicopters Sing.”

Given that to truly appreciate most music, the instruments need to be scrutinized and the passages dissected in order to evaluate its efficacy and importance, it’s almost surreal to listen to an album and intend to do the exact opposite - but it’s exactly what the nature of the music commands. Ambient music is open, it lacks structure, it’s ambiguous and it thrives off textures, and it’s pretty much everything that pop music isn't. Using primarily keyboards and synthesisers to achieve its effects, Sorcery/Geography doesn't want to be scrutinised. Hell, it doesn't really even want your full attention. Instead, it prefers to lurk in the background and swirl and ebb and flow, like a river slowly eroding a rock into a pebble over hundreds of years, where, at its completion you marvel at the process and the way in which it achieved the end result.

The atmospheres created on Sorcery/Geography vary significantly. Sinister sounding rhythms protrude from the mists created by the lush synthesisers and make their presence felt in the most awkwardly effective way possible, epitomised by “After the Horsefight.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, Witxes occasionally allow the mists to clear and you are treated to a glimpse of daylight through smooth jazz, as saxophones permeate the all encompassing denseness and provide brief reprieves from the eeriness, most notably on “Canyon Improbable.” To talk about highlights in depth however would be to largely ignore the genres primary purpose, which is the feeling the listener is left with upon the album’s conclusion. In Witxes case it’s the carefully balanced ambience and drone techniques which encourage hope and unease respectively, and they succeed in crafting an almost cathartic experience that drifts in and out of the foreground, subtly shaping its surroundings but never allowing itself to go unnoticed.

Track List:

  1. Unlocation
  2. After the Horsefight
  3. Thirteen Emeralds
  4. Canyon Improbable
  5. The Reason
  6. Dead Reckoning
  7. Misscience
  8. Dunes of Steel
  9. Somewhere
  10. No Sorcerer of Mine

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