“A sci-fi spiked soundtrack to a theoretical film” is how this album is introduced, and it’s an apt and accurate tagline. Cinematic electronica dominates, supported by organic elements including liberal helpings of reverb-laden piano, slow emotive pads and twinkling atmospherics. It’s all fused with melancholy and introspection and it really does feel like it ought to be a soundscape married to slow, expansive, barren imagery. The flipside of that association is that it shows that this work is constructed of ‘safe’ and well-worn sonic ingredients that have cropped up in hundreds of other electronica soundscape works, and there’s very little here that feels novel or progressive.
“Two Futures”- an eleven-minute suite in multiple parts in its own right- has shades of Vangelis’ “Blade Runner” (the whole soundtrack, not specifically the theme), but without any of the urgency or tempo- but it never channels that synthesis in such a way that it ever becomes retro or synthwave in earnest.
It delves quite deep at times, with pieces like “Victoria I (Rain)” burying the musical elements for several minutes and just wallowing in the sinister atmospherics and decontextualised found sounds. It’s nice that many of the ideas seem to be let breathe for their appropriate duration, finding the sweet spot of the listeners’ attention span. The title track’s bold sparseness, remaining practically empty for the first three minutes and barely-there for a further two, is quite audacious in that regard- but ultimately successful when it unfolds out into an odd crossbreed that’s half triumphant Jean-Michel Jarre-esque chords, half distorted noise and glitch, in the album’s most unusual moment.
Calming, yet also brooding with a little disquiet, Half Death is not the most innovative or challenging electronica or composition work you’ll hear- but it’s strongly composed and handled with a touch of quality that makes it engaging.