Published Sep 10, 2018Generally known for innovating dub techno beyond the looming spectre that is Basic Channel's influence, Silent Season's sound has been shaped and formed by the surrounding British Columbia flora and fauna. Gone are the synthetic machinations so present in the dub techno of yesteryear; replacing them are lush ambience and instrumentation that sound as real as they are fantastical.
Wanderwelle, the Amsterdam-based electronic duo who specialize in an expressive approach to the genre, return to the label for their second album, Gathering of the Ancient Spirits. Inspiration for this album is drawn largely from the work of 19th century impressionist painter Paul Gauguin. Parallels can be drawn between Wanderwelle's approach to composition, and Gauguin's to painting, where both are vibrant and lush, but are built off of reductive canvasses.
The album was delivered with an accompanying "Album Synopsis," which serves as a semi-fictionalized representation of the later days of Gauguin's life. Each track is paired with a short paragraph explaining the literary context of the music within the album's story. "Primitive Dreams" begins as the clearest clue into the album's intricacies; the track sets the tone and general state of affairs exquisitely. Looping arpeggiation, orchestrated from synthetic instruments made to sound tangible, marry percussion that harkens to rhythms echoing a primordial time, matching the literary description.
However, as we delve further, there's a sense that tracks merge together, due to the inherent similarity in compositional approach and tempo. Only when we arrive at a particularly emotive melody or motif do our ears prick up again, as in "Her Name Is Vairumati." Ethereal bells paint the picture of Gauguin's fictional encounter with tribesmen recounting the story of a mortal who became the wife of a god. "The Seed of the Areoi" is another moment of grandeur that truly shines, albeit where the illusion is very slightly smeared with a somewhat lackadaisical approach to the percussion programming.
"Sacred Spring, Sweet Dreams" lives up to its namesake with the dreamiest of synth lines that seem to float and drift above the tribalist rhythms, thudding underneath. "The Fire Dance" is guttural and foreboding, the clearest shift in tone since the onset to the album. Eventually, "Oviri" concludes Gathering of the Ancient Spirits with the fictionalized demise of Paul Gaugin, where a sense of submissive melancholy permeates.
The biggest change in Gathering of the Ancient Spirits from Wanderwelle's previous Silent Season outing, Lost In A Sea Of Trees, is the tempo. While the previous effort could more closely be described as ambient techno, to the tune of an artist like Dorisburg, everything is slowed down this time around. This allow Wanderwelle to truly come into their own with a defined sound, but can lead to cyclical moments.
Caveats aside, the album is a treat to listen to, and is an effective representation of a pair of artists who are comfortably setting into their stride in the electronic music world. (Silent Season)