Two releases from the German label Blackjack Illuminist Records (whose Leonard Donat “Deer Traps” I reviewed some time ago) have been on the list for a while. But a wealth of material being received plus the usual work/life balance have seen them sit in the queue. Time to listen and cover them, although with 33 tracks on the Vlimmer release, its more a case of an overview.
Sana Obruent is California-based artist Paul Lopez and this is his fourth album with three on Blackjack Illuminist. It follows “Dyatlov” which was by all accounts a Dark Ambient release. “August” sees Lopez go in the opposite direction, Glacial Ambience. According to the label “On his fourth album Paul Lopez sounds as if he wanted to imitate the sound of Icebergs floating by or massive mountain ranges scraping the earth, the new album “August” is intense Drone played with guitars only, bulldozer like, heavy Drone that shakes the listener’s living room walls”
The album which was released on cassette (edition of 15), cdr (edition of 50) and digital has six numbered tracks ranging in length from five minutes to ten minutes and fifty-eight seconds in length. “I” is waves of submerged glacial drones that don’t sound as if they were constructed on guitar. There is a certain amount of distortion to the track which could be explained by the fact that there is no mastering credit which leaves the material sounding raw. “II” the epic of the album follows a similar path with layers of wind-swept like drones with a more sinister desolate edge to them.
“III” features haunting drones that give the listener feelings of isolation. They are more varied than the previous two tracks and are environmental in tone. A glacial / dark ambient balancing act. “IV” the drones sound vaguely orchestral like ringing church bells. They fan out in loops while others circle around. “V” is the album’s epic clocking in at just over eleven minutes. Circular sounding drones change sound to become off kilter and oscillating and are the most synth like of the album. Half way through the track the tempo changes to longer duration and lower intensity.
“VI” takes the album to its conclusion with a darker, harsher track. As if recorded in a snow storm. The sound is bleak with little light visible. There is a change mid way through the track which adds more texture and a more obvious treated guitar sound, but in a similar vein to the original harshness to which the track returns to.
“Randow is a podcast/audiobook about a small village located in a proximity of an inexplicable gap in space and tine where Berlin used to Vlimmer’s soundtrack serves as dark and deep, sometimes terrifying, in parts melancholic assistant for an uncanny story which is full of dubious characters and disturbing encounters in strange places”.
Vlimmer is an alias of label boss Leonard Alexander Donat. He also records under names like Fir Cone Children, Infravoids, Feverdreamt and others. Clearly he is quite prolific as since this was released he has put out the five track albums/ Ep’s “IIIIIIII (aka 8)” and “IIIIIIII (aka 9)”. All have been released on CD (50 copies)/ Cassette (15 copies)/ Digital.
“Randow” begins with “Hiatus” that mixes pointed synth stabs with fluid waves of drones. A mixture of experimentation meets classic synth ambience with a certain amount of degradation and eerie (if you don’t understand German) voice over.
“Biologie” reminds ever so slightly with its intro of old SPK before the synth progressions that have a sci-fi feel to them. This is carried onto the next track “Stadtkarte” which is an ominous interlude that you can imagine the filmic version having a nasty ending.
“Frage” in it’s five second glory reminds my somehow off the synth sounds of the film “Liquid Sky”, but in a way that has become broken. Its following track “Einbruch” uses bass (presumably from synth) alongside rippling keys or chords that echo out till they disappear alongside vocalized/singing like drones (though no vocals were used on the album) and what sounds like guitar drones.
“Gestalt” could be the standout with its choppy rhythm that emerges from the sound of steam. You get the feeling of a retro-futurist “Blade Runner” type piece which the rhythms are complimented by icy drones which leads the track out to electroacoustic style electronics and more distant narration.
“Gefängnis” utilizes the bass and synth stabs alongside low-level ominous drones which provide a counterpoint in some sections, but also compliment in others and add to the sense of unease and otherworldliness. The word “Gefängnis” refers to a place of captivity so this could possibly refer to the fictitious “Randow” in the sense of being stuck in the gap of the space time continuum or as a jail located in Randow.
“dliblegeipS” is “Spiegelbild” backwards which is the German word for mirror and features layers of drones that float over each other before narration comes in. Not knowing any German I can ony guess at whether the meaning of the title or the theme is revealed in the narration.
“Walddämmerung” features guitar which adds a different element, by still retains the similar feel. Drones cascade in the background with an ominous quality and some sort of their sounds occur which sound like people talking undescipherably.
“Selbstzweifel” which translates to self-doubt is the albums epic track with its slow rumble of industrial elements , the muted sound of decay and distance alongside buried sounds that morph into harsh drones that overwhelm the sound like a swarm. The sound varies in the final minutes with less rumble and more of a constant throb of the industrial-esque sounds alongside the noisier elements.
As a comparison between two albums on the same label, I feel one works and the other doesn’t. The Sana Obruent release, for me, needs some more variation. As there is no mastering credit mentioned and I am taking that it is unmastered. If this is the case I am sure mastering could elicit some more details to the material. As for Vlimmer, there is enough variation through the music and track lengths (the shorter tracks give a filmic interlude feel) to easily ustain the eighty minute length.