Sunday, September 20, 2020
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Artist: Tapage and Meander (@)
Title: Etched In Salt
Format: CD
Label: Tympanik Audio (@)
Distributor: Tympanik Audio
Rated: *****
Tapage and Meander is Tijs Ham and Conrad Hoyer (Ophidian) from the Netherlands. They released a couple of EPs previously but this Tympanik release is their first full album together. 'Etched in Salt' is a combination of IDM and soft ambient with glitch and industrial elements. The music ranges from being lightly ethereal to heavily hardcore electronic, often in the same piece! The juxtaposition of the light and heavy elements is perhaps the key to this collaborative effort which sometimes swells with brilliance and at other times falls resoundingly flat. One good example of when things work well together is 'Tolopea,' where cloudy ambient pads float atop a hard techo-ish rhythm. Aphex Twin style synth sequences propel the piece into the stratosphere and back again with palpable intensity. One example of where it doesn't work at all is on 'The Tide' ' where a beautifully angelic synth melody is sabotaged by a heavy snare-accented percussion pattern. The joyous waltzing melody in 6/8 sounds like a carousel band gone awry; as incongruous as setting Satie or Debussy to a marching band. The percussion completely overtakes everything here when present. When it's not, it's a relief.

Things work much better on the less defined 'Hydrostatic Skeleton' where much of the synthwork is more atmospheric and plays well off the percussion. Throughout most of the tracks the synthwork is light and airy while the rhythms are heavier. Another technique that works well is when the rhythm track ceases, to give the synth ambiences some breathing room, and visa versa. There are times when I wish the synths would get heavier to match the percussion, or the percussion would lighten up to be more compatible with the synths. I also think the rhythmic elements could take more time in the build-up, rather than just charging full speed ahead. The breaks are nice but they often seem like a respite from the barrage to take refuge in. One exception from this light/dark dichotomy is 'Oceanographic' where a bold and bassy sequence begins the track and the synthwork takes a more proactive role against the percussion. It is full of twisty, distorted sounds interspersed in the breaks with celestial ambient pads. It's a sophisticated melody that weaves through this complex sonic entanglement too, giving the track a lot more depth than you might realize on an initial listening.

'Osedax' is the closest thing to dark ambient, although not really dark, just a bit mysterious with underlying sustained bass lines, muted cosmic synth pads, and sparser percussion than any other track, and lightly haunting voices that come in towards the end. The transition into 'Abyssal Pain' is so seamless you won't even notice it. The percussion takes a little more active role, but still everything is downplayed. For me, this was one of the better segments on the album.

I liked a lot of elements on 'Etched in Salt' but overall I found it to be an uneven album. It shows the potential Ham and Hoyer have to fuse ambient, IDM and glitch-laced industrial together into a compatible entity, but that's not always such an easy trick.


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