18 October 2011

Amazing Electronic Talking Cave: "Radio Psylence"

My thanks to the AETC team for keeping me in the loop.

At the end of the day, great songwriting, in terms of putting an album together, is about vision; though a project may start with a few stabs in the dark, stumbling through chords and words until something clicks, it is when that something clicks that the vision is generated and carried through fruition. Amazing Electronic Talking Cave’s new album, “Radio Psylence” (5 September 2011), is all about vision. From the implied titular theme to more musical references than you can count on both hands, this is a complex album that effortlessly flows track-to-track; recorded in St. Petersburg, Russia, this is the brainchild of Estonian Felix Bondarev. From grandiose ambience to distortion filled frenzy, “Radio Psylence” is a cohesive album in the classic sense: the songs work in tandem with one another to create a singular musical journey through luscious soundscapes.

Since we live in a world full of labels, let’s go through the compulsory labeling: electronic, synthpop, shoegaze, noise pop, dream pop, space rock, psychedelic rock, post-punk, intelligent dance music, experimental rock, post-rock, industrial … and I will spare you from the more obscure ones! It is actually an exercise in futility to try to define this album by trite labels, as what makes “Radio Psylence” an amazing album is Bondarev’s understanding (whether by practice or instinct) of each of these genres, while at the same time he never commits to anyone of them. While most nascent musicians allow their music to be defined by labels, Bondarev is seemingly happier to redefine and mismatch these labels to concoct a sonic experience that is bewitching. I would assume that the term “electronic” is the label that is going to get flung around the most, and I would concede that the primary mode of musical production is electronic, but this is not an “electronic” album. The music here exists in those small niches outside of genres; where it may touch upon many, it eludes them all.

The vision of “Radio Psylence” is apparent from the opening track, “On Speed.” Ironically, this is a highly ambient track with no rhythmic beat/speed, lost somewhere between electronic experimentations and space rock, which concentrates solely on majestic, visceral effects of the listener. It is not the actual sounds that really get to you, but how the chords flow into one another, how they are sustained, and the sonic textures of all the layers of music. And as you find yourself fluttering through thoughts, the second track, “Tri Goda,” literally sneaks in, with its post-punk bassline, shoegaze guitars, and aggressive vocals, which are tantamount to hypnotic, melodic rantings – like those of a madman on the streets that you take a few steps closer towards in order to hear what he is saying. Also of epic proportion, this is the kind of track you may expect to find at the closing of an album because of its cathartic nature; it is almost has if Bondarev is wiping the audience clean of the prior visceral reactions for what follows after this track.

The most interesting thing about the album, from a production point of view, is that it is frontloaded with the epic tracks. Most artists, who are willing to engage in epics, play the safe sonic sleight of hand of frontloading their albums with their poppier, shorter numbers to arrest the listener’s attention, then forcing them to confront the epic tracks towards the end. Bondarev, however, already has the composure and risk-taking of a veteran to allow the music to take its natural course, without planning out the order in the typical cookie-cutter fashion. With that said, though I love the epics on the album, it is “Permanent Black Marker” that really has me all mesmerized and giddy as a kid listening to his new favorite song over and over again. The industrial electronic bass line is haunting, the subtle ambient keys mysterious, and the background trip-hop beat surprising – this song has all the poise and precession that veteran electronic acts (like the boys from Basildon) aim at. The equally urgent “Allisoneisall” follows this track – think of early 80s electropop mixed in with electronic body music and industrial, yet retaining its poppy appeal. The album then closes out with “Not Your Name.” Much as it started with ambience, this track adds erratic beats to searing synth sounds. Not the serenity that symbolized the silence in the opening track, this is a cacophony that quickly symbolizes the distress of silence.

It is commonplace not to think of places like Estonia or Russia as major producers of urgent music, but Amazing Electronic Talking Cave’s “Radio Psylence” easily dismisses that false stereotype. Felix Bondarev’s music is compelling, and in his paying homage to the past, he has created music that steps away from typical confines and opens the door to one of the most irresistible journey through an amazing soundscape.

Track Listing:
1. On Speed
2. Tri Goda
3. Serdce
4. Kingisepp
5. We Fucked Your Statues
6. Uznat
7. Permanent Black Marker
8. Allisoneisall
9. Not Your Name

Keep up with Amazing Electronic Talking Cave at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook. You can sample and purchase “Radio Psylence” at the albums homepage or the band’s Bandcamp page.

Here is a video teaser for “Permanent Black Marker” from the aetcvideos YouTube Channel.

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