Monday, September 28, 2020
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Mystified: Yenisei Crossing

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Artist: Mystified (@)
Title: Yenisei Crossing
Format: CD + Download
Label: Spotted Peccary Music (@)
Rated: *****
Under the project name Mystified, Thomas Park has many, many releases on a variety of labels that go all the way back to 2003. Among other projects, Park put out a couple of techno releases under the name Autocad, and has also collaborated with Robin Storey of Rapoon and also released a primordial soundscape triology with Shane Morris. With all the albums Park has put out (16 pages worth on Discogs) one could spend months, maybe even years wandering through his discography. Well, I haven't done that, and all I have is 'Yenisei Crossing,' a quite different album even for Mr. Park. The title was inspired by a dream he had about being in Siberia, where the Yenisei River just happens to be. As Park says, "The Yenisei is a huge river that moves through this landscape. It divides Siberia in half, carrying time forward and water to the sea." Don't be expecting a nice flowing watery ambience though; more on that shortly.

This album, consisting of 17 pieces clocking in at a little over an hour was created by Park curating a large pool of sound sources that he transformed into elements ideal for iterating and mixing. Then he used Python programming code with his computer to give the machine the leeway to layer and combine sounds. This puts a lot of trust in technology, and results may not necessarily be what you might expect, or even want. Thomas doesn't say how much he discarded or didn't use that was computer generated, or even if the order and length of the pieces on the album was predetermined, so we really don't know about the editing process, if any. Track titles may have been computer generated as well, with titles such as "LUSCG," "XTWZ6," "OECV4," "DZE3W," etc..
Let's get back to the Yenisei River. There is nothing that sounds like a river (Yenisei or otherwise) on this album. What we have are 17 industrial ambiences that rely primarily on a looped base sound pattern with other loops and/or sound elements overlaid. Looping is both an art and a science. While examining the sound waves visually for loop start and end point is the science, what your ear hears is the art to creating the perfect loop where the loop point is almost impossible to detect. Computer programs are pretty good at the science aspect; not so much in the art aspect, hence the rub. When you let the computer determine what's appropriate to combine, aesthetics sort of go out the window. On 'Yenisei Crossing' sometimes that works out okay, but a lot of times it misses the mark in my opinion.

To illustrate, let’s analyze the first track "LUSCG," begins with a steady ticking/tapping that eventually multiplies (short slap-back echo perhaps?) over time while a sound like dull metal clanging against a flagpole and a wordless sampled voice humming an abstract melody over and under heaps of drone while a low pulsing looped tone emerges through bubbling electronic oscillations. For me everything was fine except for the percussive tapping which came across as uber-annoying and superfluous. In fact, most every track that utilized a stick type of percussion (be it stick, snare, drum, whatever) I found distracting and superfluous as no (extraneous) rhythm seemed needed to carry off the mechanical concept. "XTWZ6" begins with a loop where the loop point causes a rhythm. Since the material in the loop happens to be noise, this creates a mechanical industrial machine-like ambience. Other sonic elements provide some enhancement but it's pretty dry and static throughout the nearly 5 1/2 minutes of the piece. That's another problem with this type of programming. Once a scene is set, there seems to be little deviation from it except in additives, and "OECV4" is a perfect example of that. It starts out with a very short noise loop and a snare hit with constant cymbal noise while a whole lot of sonic effluvia plays in and around it. The snare hit multiplies into multilayered hits no longer rhythmic but rather arrhythmic as more and more sonic elements are mixed in. Unsettling, but not necessarily enjoyable to listen to. Not every piece has this percussion element, but there were enough tracks that did, and it was just unsettling.

Some pieces are less chaotic than others, and the ones that have less defined percussive components tend to be easier to digest. One of the problems with having so many of these similarly schemed pieces is that extended listening becomes tiresome. Then again, there are anomalies where everything seems to work great together, such as on "L31MF" sounding to me like a tin can tugboat ride in a kiddie park., if such a thing were to exist. I'm sure that repeated listenings could produce more imaginative descriptions of other tracks but I think you get the idea. Another thing I noticed is that numerous sound elements and loops appear again and again in different tracks. While they may be combined differently on subsequent tracks, you get the feeling you’ve heard this track or that track before and it starts to blend together.

So this is sort of as mixed bag; when things work well together a track sounds great in its mini-environment, but when they don't, not so much. Although there are some abrasive elements employed, this definitely is not power electronics or harsh noise, even though it sounds quite industrial. This is more of an experimental industrial ambient album, not something the Spotted Peccary label is known for, but I guess they're branching out.


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