Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Kraken Mare - Kraken Mare (Retrograde Tapes, 2011)

The beginning of Kraken Mare’s self-titled cassette begins with an al most Morse Code-like sound, which immediately reminded me of the opening sounds of This Heat’s 1979 self-titled album or the Peel Sessions rendition of their “Horizontal Hold”. Knowing how dark This Heat is, I shivered with excitement listening to the cassette, even though I knew it’s not gonna be similar to This Heat at all outside of this similar beginning.
Kraken Mare is named after the biggest lake on Titan, one of Saturn’s moon’s. The darkness and coldness of that place is reflected not only by the sounds on the cassette, two sprawling slabs of alien noise/drone filth, relentlessly cutting its way through the tape; but also by the abstract artwork kept in the toxic green color palette and song titles like “Methane Rain”. Side A’s “Night on Mayda Insula” conjures an image of a lonely research station on Titan, at the shore of Kraken Mare – a battered, sturdy complex of thick metal, looking more like concrete bunkers than the state-of-the-art space technology. Low frequency drone breaths slowly while electronics shimmer and sparkle, collecting and interchanging data about the dark body of liquid. The brooding drone seems to be calling from the lake, from a life-form still yet unknown to the Earth scientists. The track has a heavy atmosphere of mystery, becoming an abstract soundtrack to a non-existent sci-fi movie – while not being as thoroughly planned as Logan Seguin’s “concept” album SS-VNTRX-34000 - Original Film Soundtrack, it has a certain cinematic ambience to it.
Side B’s “Methane Rain” begins with  a quiet, ominous hum, like the heavy clouds of methane gathering on the horizon in the endless night of Titan. Gradually, the wall of caustic noise drowns out all the sounds and the echoed outer-space sine waves rise and fall, rising above the methane storm. The haunted, high-pitched pulsations interact with the harsh textures and what appears to be a bird chirp can he heard once in a while – like a bird in a cage brought from Earth to the research station on Titan to provide a relief from the dead surroundings and the metallic confinement of the station, now attacked by the acidic rainfall and violent wind. The wall of noise then  dies out, leaving only a quiet hum from the beginning and creating a space full of echoed glitches and malfunctioning electronics, creating all sorts of squeals and washes of white noise. The track ends with the final blast of synthesizer abuse fury.
Kraken Mare is an interesting concept – continuing the dark, post-apoc imagery started with Den, Adam transforms the darkness into the synthesizer idiom, infecting the circuits with grime and sludge. No instrument is safe.

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