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Signalsundertests: Nascent

Ambient music serves a very narrow niche, and it no doubt polarizes many listeners. While some may love the way poignant, universal feelings are conveyed with subtle arrangements and atmospheres, more often than not, the music ceases to evolve, which results in a stagnant and tedious sum. Unsurprisingly, Nascent, the newest release by signalsundertests, fulfills to this expectation exactly. It's arresting in small doses, but it eventually becomes quite monotonous.

An alias for Irish mastermind Richard Graham, signalsundertests formed in 2008 as a "collaborative music project established…as a means to explore new interactive performance systems for live electronic music." The album also features contributions from Michael Andrews and Laura Graham. Graham's debut under the moniker, Mecca, featured in several music magazines, as well as a few television and radio shows. With Nascent, he places repetitive drones, dissonant crescendos, and the like amidst a few accessible and affective ideas.

The title track, which essentially consists of multilayered guitar arpeggios, emotive soundscapes, and odd effects, opens the album with a wonderful sense of caution and suspense. In a way, it's reminiscent of the looped buildups artists like Agalloch and Godspeed You! Black Emperor employ often. Another highlight is "keep me (143)," a track that combines a touch of trance with spacey female vocals to culminate in plenty of futuristic allure.

As for the rest of the album (which includes the four part "selah" and two part "axon"), well, it all kind of sounds the same – unnerving hums complemented by static, lengthy guitar notes, and electronic noises. New timbres pop in and out randomly, but they don't make the "music" any more welcoming. Save for the aforementioned two pieces, it's fairly difficult to decipher any unique qualities amongst the songs. All in all, everything flows together because everything sounds the same.

Of course, Nascent exists for different reasons than most other music. Graham explains, "The pieces seek to interrogate the increasingly polyphonic nature of the solo performing electronic guitarist. The disc features a series of refined live improvisations through production techniques. The live recordings were produced with hardware and software developed by myself…" As a collection of unique sound experiments that seek to explore what different techniques and technology can do, the record is certainly valuable; however, as a listenable set, it falls quite short. The pieces on Nascent may display what Graham can do with his instruments and electronics, but it's hard to believe anyone would want to actively hear them.


Track Listing
1. nascent
2. selah (i)
3. axon
4. selah (ii)
5. keep me (143)
6. selah (iii)
7. quiet arcs
8. selah (iv)
9. axon (reprise)
10. selah (v)
11. kapelle
12. selah (vi)
13. ebb and flow

Added: July 22nd 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 1238
Language: english

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