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Dark Intervals: II

February Album Writing Month began in 2005 when a few friends challenged each other (and themselves) to write and record a whole album during the year's shortest month. An online blog was kept and from there, many others have over the years joined the challenge, an amazing 11,015 songs being written at the challenge's peak in 2013 (although an impressive 10,936 was this year's total). One such inspired musician is Finland's Ilkka Harjula, a multi-instrumentalist who in 2014 took up the challenge and put together II (the follow up to 2011's The Flow) by his one man band Dark Intervals. That debut had been a Gothic, doom, prog affair, so even with banks of keyboards on the simple cover to II, that it's an instrumental effort in the vein of Jean Michel Jarre, or Klause Schulze is at first a shock and one no doubt that flummoxed fans of the Dark Intervals' first outing. That said the two are linked (as is follow up III, which returns to guitar based songs with lyrics) through the want from Harjula to paint his pictures through broad brush strokes of atmosphere, rather than short sharp, to the point, outbursts.

During it's short creation, Harjula did state that his desire for II was to craft something that Jarre, or Tangerine Dream may have created long ago and on that front it's hard to argue that he hasn't completely succeeded. Repetitive signatures and themes rotate across the songs, hoping more immediate melody lines or punctuations will dart forth and take the imagination. However, even though the arrangements are dense, there's not much to latch onto in the way of hook, or theme, making the overall feel that of mood music which should link more immediate fare, in the way Jarre used to do so masterfully. Here, it is deep, dark, and largely impenetrable for much of the way and yet there is enough going on to lift "Varnoissa" or "Fraktaaleja" safely away from becoming background music. "Ikuisesti Nousevat Portaat" on the other hand closes proceedings with an unexpected drum beat kicking out a groove completely lacking elsewhere. Nothing else changes in the track's composition from its album mates and yet the mid paced hi-hat clicks and snare cracks are enough to take the music in a different direction altogether, Ozric Tentacles suddenly brought to mind.

Possibly most impressive for illustrating the diverse nature of Ilkka Harjula's talents, II is an enigmatic and, at times, engaging journey. Whether that's enough to placate those who expected a guitar driven blast of Gothic doom, as delivered on The Flow (and again on III (also reviewed here recently)), I'm not so sure. However, if synth workouts with bags of atmosphere are your thing, you'd be advised to check this out.

Track Listing
1. Tähtisade
2. Fraktaaleja
3. Kelmeä Valo
4. Varjoissa
5. Lachrimae
6. Ikuisesti Nousevat Portaat

Added: August 23rd 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Dark Intervals II on Soundcloud
Hits: 1014
Language: english

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