Wednesday, January 15, 2014


EXBEH∆VIOR cover art

In writing reviews, one finds, of course, that not all albums are created equal. This statement is fairly obvious. However, in saying this, I am not referring to the quality of the album, but rather, how it is reviewed. Anyone who writes regularly will notice that different works require different takes and perspectives, and of course, some will prove to be more difficult to wrap words around than others.

When I received a message on this blog from G∆RTM∆LEN, requesting that I review her album, I had no idea I was in for a very rough ride. As I listened to the tracks one by one, I felt I was engaged in an excruciating wrestling match with the material provided, grabbing for words and ways to describe the music that were completely alluding me.

Part of what makes this album so tough to tackle is that it is not meant to be listened to plainly as a piece of music. Such straightforward listening does not do justice to such an experimental work. Melodies play their parts more as guest stars on the album, performing in their roles well, but not grabbing too much airtime before clearing out for the real stars. This is, for sure, no casual listening experience, employing atonal, dissonant, and off-beat characteristics seen as early as the tracks "VVYY" and "YesYes." Songs often fade in and out of heavily-layered, airy synth sections and bare-bones, minimal sections where the beat is the only music present.

All of these characteristics prove to instill a dark and unsettling atmosphere that is pervasive throughout, with countless exercises in bold experimentation that, again, serve better as mood pieces than pieces of music to listen to. At times the songs can be a bit tough to swallow at all ("Red Forest (Blck)"), but it all lends itself to the greater feeling of the album. This wasn't meant to be easy to listen to by any means. Just listen to those shrill synths on "H∆UNTING," and the insane arrangement of "Boots."

G∆RTM∆LEN overreaches on this debut, for certain, a trait evident in many bright and bold musicians and composers, but does she hit her mark? For release, it could be hard to say. It depends on how you listen to it. Some might say that she has trouble reaching the admirably high bar she has set for herself, but as an atmospheric piece, I believe that when I listen to it, I feel exactly what she wanted me too. The vibe she has created is unmistakably profound.

-Andrew Oliver

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