Fescal (real name David Suyeong) is an experimental musician and producer of audio, self-taught graphic designer, photographer and visual creator residing north of Seoul, South Korea. Classically trained as a musician, Fescal has worked with various forms of exploratory media for a number of years and plans to continue to do so in the future. The first thing you'll notice about 'Alchemical Wanderings' is the elaborate packaging. It comes in a see through anti static bag with hand-stamped metallic tag. (Something you'd expect to get an electronic component in, like a circuit board or hard-drive.) It also comes with a 5'³ screw capped pyrex test tube containing a secret TRS blend of semi precious and precious metals, glass and other transposed particulate matter, litmus paper, periodic table of elements, and instructions for 'Exercise 73,' Qualitative Separation of Lead, Silver and Mercury. The CD itself comes in a hand-worked black digipak. This package is numbered and limited to only 100. (Mine was #7, if you care.)
Science kit aside (although it makes a nice collectible) the album is ambient much in the way of Alio Die, Vidna Obmana, and maybe to an extent Brian Eno, and yet in places unlike them too. While not dealing strictly in drone, the album has an overall placid feel with elongated sustain of atmospheres that can be construed as drone-like. There is one long track (50:30) comprised of episodes with brief space between them. There is enough variety between these ambiences to keep things interesting and non-monotonous. In fact, as drone-based ambient albums go, this one leans toward the superb side. There is only one problem- throughout the album is the (faux) sound of vinyl on a turntable, as if you're listening to a record instead of a CD, or a record that was transferred to CD. Purists may find this quite annoying. On my first listen I found it so distracting that it was all I could think about. I remembered why I stopped listening to my ambient albums on vinyl, as over time the snap, crackle, pop just became a nuisance and distraction. I'm sure it was Fescal's intention to incorporate the vinyl listening experience into the sound of 'Alchemical Wanderings,' but to me it seems as though the purpose would have been better served releasing it on record rather than disc and let it occur naturally. The one advantage is that it won't get any worse or more predominant as it could on vinyl. If the music wasn't so subtle I could abide it, but there is no question that the stylus-on-plastic effect cannot be easily overlooked. Perhaps over time and repeated listenings one may become used to it, but I for one would have preferred a cleaner sound.
Still, this is a worthy effort, and probably worth owning as its limited release and unusual packaging will assure this one increases in value over time.