Having a moniker is a tricky thing for a musical project. What sort of idea do you want to give to the audience? With a name like Endurance, Japan based Canadian Researcher and Translator Joshua Stefane (who uses volca keys, volca FM, Op-1,SI Evolver, Saucillator App, effects pedals, field recordings, tape recorders and others) could be making extremely challenging hard to listen music. Thankfully this is not always the case. Recent releases have been on the cassette and digital format with imprints such as Polar Seas Recordings, Pyramid Blood, Other Worldly Mystics and others. The latter two labels are responsible for the releases covered in this review.
The Invincible released on Pyramid Blood in an edition of 50 cassettes, is a concept album of sorts and is seen as an unofficial soundtrack to Polish Sci-Fi writer Stanislaw Lem’s 1964 story of the same name. In the story “A very powerful and armed interstellar spaceship called Invincible lands on the planet Regis III, which seems uninhabited and bleak, to investigate the loss of her sister ship Condor. During the investigation, the crew finds evidences of a form of quasi-life born through evolution of autonomous, self replicating machines, apparently left behind by an alien civilisation had inhabited the planet a long time ago. The novel turns into an analysis of the relationship between different life domains, and their place in the universe.”
“Regis III” starts off the album with minimal electronics, aquatic like ambient sounds and melodic synths drones that combined give a feel of a SCI FI film and the landing of the Invincible on the planet Regis III. There is a feeling of hovering over something with the swirling ambience reflecting desolation and the feeling of being alone.
“The Lonely Shore” combines low-level field recordings of water slowly flowing in and out alongside glacial synths drones, with siren like drones entering the sound as if the shore is being explored and someone is approaching something. There are some mechanical like sounds or effects that are added which gives to the fact of the story featuring evolved mechanical lifeforms, like the explorers are being watched.
“Cyclops” is a short track that features a darker pulsing drone with industrial playthings breaking down and pressurised wind sound added and could be an aural representation of the surface of the planet.
“Necroevolution” is a reference in the book of evolution of non living matter. The track starts with two layers of mechanical sounds before a long drone comes slowly in and is joined by a whirring noisy drone that builds while it turns and some vocal like howling sounds loop in and out. If this is the evolution as stated above, it is shown by the growth if the track as all this elements keep getting bigger and end up swarming the track, before chimes and electronic bell-like sounds round it out.
“The Cloud” references the micro-machines in the story and their ability to form a swarm and travel at high speeds. The track has a long melodic drone with a slightly high pitch which has a lower pulsing drone underneath it which is punctuated by the occasional noisier swarming sound to imitate the sound of the “cloud” as it travels at speed. Later the track has a sound that appears to be like a sound of elevation (like an aircraft). This is longest track, but seeing how in the book the people from the Invisible battle these micro-robots and their ability to form swarms to battle the and overpower them, it makes sense that this track has the longest length.
“This Realm of Perfected Death” is awash with classic synths stab drones which give off a feeling of calm or resignation. You can imagine it in a 80’s sci-fi film walking through some sort of desolate abandoned area. There are at least 3 different types of drones that are fluidly rolling over each other, phasing in an out and going in a circular fashion. The drones fill the sound of the track while it builds and builds until it fades away to nothing.
File Under: SCI-FI Ambient/Synth/Drone .
The Vacant Coast released on Other Worldly Mystics is another concept album of sorts as this was based on the found photographs of 1960’s Japan that make up the cover art and the inner sleeve. Central to the album are water sounds.
“Low Season” starts with chime like sounds that make up a melody, field recordings before rumbling of possible rain and impending storm roll in and scattershot sounds appear in the foreground, before retreating to the background. These elements repeat before the field recordings start to take over, bird sounds appear and the storm increases before fading out. The chime like melody that is looped is the center of the sound of the track.
“Ornamental Grasses” carries on with field recordings and as suggested but the title involves the rustling of vegetation, while a very subtle Synth melody appeared that is not to unobtrusive to be ignored, nor to forceful becomes the focus. Almost half the way in it is joined by an almost orchestral section which provides the ambient counterpoint to the other sounds.
“Weaker by the Day” Synth melodies of a semi random feel make for an off kilter sound with added field recordings and reverb coexist before a storm of sound threatens to engulf them all towards the end.
“Motions Overhead I” returns to coast with the sounds of water, distant gulls squawk and we see a return of glacial synths before the weather turns bad and noise descends in a storm that produces rain , while “Motions Overhead II” sees layers of Synth drones from the like glacial ones to ones with melodic overtones gliding over a repetitive alarm like loop before the water sounds appears. If “Motions Overhead I” is the sound of a storm, this track is like the calm after the storm.
“Adjacency to Water” features a powerful drone augmented by churning water sounds and ebbing and flowing frequencies that provide a focal point to the maelstrom underneath before they are overwhelmed by the field recordings.
“Uncertain Sources” a low slightly ominous humming drone coupled with field recordings of birds and waves crashing on the shore are joined by melodic synths drones that give the track light and make the track stand out from the others. There are additional synths bleeps and blips that remind me of the previous album.
“Coastal Geography” shimmering electronics with glitch like loops mark this track like the previous as sounding like “The Invincible”. Synth drones abound with no sign of field recordings, just layers and layers of Synth loops and drones.
Since these two releases Endurance has also put out a cassette on the Polar Seas Recording label called “Echoic Architecture” and a sold out cdr on Sea of Clouds called “Enlightenment Interface”. If I had to choose between the two releases I would choose “The Invincible” as it has more variance in the sounds and I feel follows the theme of the album perfectly.