Anjou - Epithymía

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-03-24

Anjou, named after an area in France, is a pair of journeymen musicians, Mark Nelson and Robert Donne. Their second set working together, Epithymía, is as solid as you'd expect from experienced craftsmen who've dipped their toes in a number of different musical waters.

Somehow the massive opening track, 'Culicinae', clocking in at over fourteen minutes, hits a lot of ambient cliches, but does so in a way that feels fresh rather than recycled. There are deep pads, and reverberating melodies fade in and out of the foreground. They cycle through lots of calm, soothing variations before rippling cymbals scatter across the landscape, folding in and out of each other. This slowly morphs into something that sound like the exhaust fan on a giant piece of machinery, then the wailing heart of the machine itself, before finally mutating back to something resembling the opening, but with some plinking bass beats to add flavor.

Things take something of a Biosphere turn on 'Greater Grand Crossing', with gigantic balls of bass bouncing far in the distance, and skittering, muted crackles spread across the surface of a placid pond. 'Soucouyant' is a pleasantly dissociated affair, burbling by like a friendly alien spaceship scanning planets for life. Through the center of the track there's more of a buzzing ambiance, as if a cave were being explored and the sounds reflecting off the walls.

'An Empty Bank' opens in a wide expanse of nothing, in the traditional of Steve Roach's most desolate works, but introduces a slow, jazzy trumpet that gives the song a confused sound, like post-apocalyptic noire. After drifting along like this for about five minutes, a staticky wave of noise rises out of the mists and gently crescendos before dissolving away again. 'Glamr' goes to dark, ambient industrial place, or perhaps to an underground ocean. Mournful pads ebb and flow while deep, watery beats bubble and pulse. Things move glacially, and there is a real sense of disquiet throughout.

The set closes with 'Georgia', which feels like having your face shoved into a bolt of lightning slowed down to a crawl. Big vibrating pads press deep into your ear holes, and a ringing tone beckons in the distance. Creaky, droning melodies play around the edges, before everything falls away into the void and a simulacrum of true percussion takes the stage. A huge sense of space is created from the gaping pits of sound floating past, and things even get a bit ominous midway through, before finally calming down right at the last.

This is a pretty remarkable set, all things considered. It's a bit more active than the most out there ultra-ambient stuff like Steve Roach and Robert Rich, but it's not as complex as a group like The Orb. The beats are few and far between, and the spacious pads and synths push the music along at a snail's pace. Don't be mistaken, however, this is excellent. My only complaint would be that it hits varying moods, sometimes relaxing, and sometimes a bit anxious, such that it's not simple to sit through the whole thing without the occasional emotional transition. But taken individually, the songs are most impressive.

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