Friday, October 12, 2012

Sounds Of Autumn III: Circulation of Light and Jodis

Week three of "Sounds of Autumn" explores Kinit Her member Nathaniel Ritter's solo project Circulation of Light and Jodis's Black Curtain, Hydra Head's final full-length album release.

Continue reading for two reviews and two full album streams.

 Circulation of Light - "Acheiropoieta" (2012) [Brave Mysteries]
As if I didn't sing Nathaniel Ritter's praises enough last week, here we see yet another one of his masterful releases. This time we see Ritter by himself under the name Circulation of Light. After a few small-run and digital-only releases (track down a copy of the Twilit Homeland CD-r if you can), Circulation of Light recently celebrated its first full-length release, titled Acheiropoieta.

Though Ritter plays more of an "atmosphere building role" the context of both Kinit Her and Wreathes, utilizing various samples and synthesizer patches to build textures and set emotive backbones onto which bandmate Troy Schafer can sculpt songs, Circulation of Light showcases Ritter's own songwriting talent. Residing somewhere between ambient/soundscape music and the neofolk with which Ritter has become so deeply associated, Acheiropoieta is an ethereal journey through deep, complex emotion and mesmerizing contemplation. Through both the elements of excellent songwriting and a painstakingly chosen array of synthesizer sounds, Acheirpoieta's soft sound envelops the listener in a cloud of quiet drones and delicate voices.

Acheiropoetia is Byzantine Greek for "made without hands," and the sheer beauty and otherworldly sound of this album certainly fits the title, as if Ritter seemingly plucked this album from the cosmos themselves. As enjoyable as it is easy to get lost in, Circulation of Light has established itself on its own level of ambient music. Though Circulation of Light might be the exact opposite of Ritter's other projects when it comes to dynamics and extended instrumentation, it is still more than obvious that this music was created by the same mind which so lovingly crafted so many incredible pieces of art.

Stream via Bandcamp.

Jodis - "Black Curtain" (2012) [Hydra Head Industries/Sige Records]

Most of you already know, but for those of you who are blissfully unaware (keyword being "blissfully"), the imminent demise of Hydra Head Industriess is approaching quickly. It's so sad to see such a powerful force in music go, especially after establishing itself as a source of new, exciting music over the past near-twenty years. It's a shame to see you go, Hydra Head.

Having somewhat quietly released their first album, Secret House, some three or so years ago, experimental powerhouse Jodis has returned to send its home label off with poise and grace. Featuring the undeniably talented James Plotkin's subdued guitar work, Tim Wyskida's texture-over-rhythm percussive wizardry, and a particularly powerful performance by vocalist (and Hydra Head co-founder) Aaron Turner, Black Curtain shows a great deal of growth in this supergroup's three years of silence, resulting in a unique, introspective listen.

Centered in drone, Jodis explores the many facets found within the genre, be it explosive, loud, and metallic, or quiet, shifting, and thoughtful. The musical duo of Plotkin and Wyskida date back more than a decade, having first worked together in the brutal, genre-defining Khanate. Though their volume knobs have definitely been turned back and any leftover rage has subsided, Plotkin and Wyskida's performance on Black Curtain shares some key similarities with their previous project. Crawling at a funereal pace, Black Curtain relies on the slow decay of tones and the space between them, not unlike Khanate's slower than slow approach, with Plotkin setting the pace for often free-flowing and rhythmless passages. Wyskida's ability to accentuate important chords and herald new segments within the confines of his drum kit truly shows his deep knowledge of various percussion techniques and only furthers his status as a talented, versatile musician. Often going for lengthy periods of time without making a sound, the occasional cymbal flourish or delicate tom roll only adds to the meditative atmospheres brought forth by Plotkin and Turner's melodic approach.

Of course, while I did make the Khanate comparison as far as set speed and note sustaining, Jodis's Black Curtain is a completely different beast and couldn't be any further from the harsh, often painful sounds once brought forth by Khanate. At times echoing Codeine guitarist John Engle's harmonically dense approach, Plotkin extends chords to the fullest extent while remaining tasteful. Unlike Secret House, which featured more "single note" minimalism, this new chord-based approach allowing for bigger atmospheres and a bit more harmonic freedom than what is normally seen in drone spheres.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the album is Aaron Turner's voice, which has made a vast change in quality from his last wider-audience appearance on previous Jodis album Secret House. What was once rough and untrained, which was definitely more suited for his exploits with ISIS, has been meticulously honed and practiced, with the end result being a massive, emotive voice and a much wider vocal range than I had ever anticipated from Turner. With this new, cleaner voice, Turner adds an extra layer of dramaturgy to Black Curtain, which I find to be much more fitting than the extra layer of buzzing drone which his voice had served as previously. Turner also takes a much more Eastern approach towards his vocalizations this time around, often taking the time to let his melodies meander and mature over stagnant or decaying drones, and sometimes even going as far as to leave melodies "unresolved" by Western standards.

A strong sophomore effort, Black Curtain shows Jodis drawing upon the elements which were demonstrated but not fully realized on Secret House. The atmospheres are bigger, the musicianship stronger and better communicated, and the overall experience is much more memorable and enjoyable. If this is truly Hydra Head's final full-length release (the Mamiffer/Pyramids split will be their final release overall), Black Curtain is one of the best ways they could go out. Dylan Thomas once told readers to "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," and Jodis most certainly did.

Stream via Bandcamp


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