Voices From The Lake
Silent Drops EP






Two of the few artists of today that are able to fully understand and broaden the mixture between pumping beats and swirling Ambient soundscapes, Voices From The Lake delivered their debut EP Silent Drops in 2011 to critical acclaim. The Italian duo of Donato Dozzi and Neel aka Giuseppe Tillieci focuses on the beats in a way that these dancefloor-oriented elements are no picayune curlicues, but essential to the atmosphere and moods of each respective track. And yet this release can be added to the Ambient niche as well, for the dark haziness endemic to Dozzi’s and Tillieci’s compositions works well in tandem with the beats. If you allow the Ambient genre to flow into Detroit and Tech House territories, the Silent Drops EP will surprise you nonetheless with its terrifically deep and cryptically daunting atmosphere. While artists with similar visions are easily at hand, for instance the Deep House anthems of The Timewriter, the dubby, confusingly nebulous caverns of Echologist's Subterranean or Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project of which his idea for the Pop Ambient subgenre derived, Voices From The Lake have found their own style. I am in fact so much impressed that I originally scheduled one of the four Drops off their EP as the Ambient Song of the Month. I decided against it, for every song I would have chosen had outshone the remaining tracks, while in fact each and everyone of them is a pitch-perfect example of the abyssal, convoluted side of Ambient music. The concept of darkness differs between artists and listeners, and believe me, while this EP doesn't try to scare the listener away with cheap shocks, it features a highly successful overarching motif and causes a feeling of uncertainty and tension. More about this in the following paragraphs.


As if Voices From The Lake want to emphasize their love for club beats – Neel is a DJ after all –, Drop 1 begins with a dubbier, more gentle beat that isn't too punchy rather than mellow. Little cricket-resembling clicks accompany the setting and echoey, cavernicolous water drops fall down in the background. It is only after almost 90 seconds that the synth superstructure in form of a fuzzy gloominess becomes apparent and is soon augmented with related crystalline, New Age-like droplets that sound like flutes at times. Owl-esque signals in the far back further enhance the nocturnal scenery of an isolated lake. The track ends on a gentle note with a reverberated crunchiness and whitewashed drones. Drop 2 boosts the beats a notch and couples them with plastic percussion and scintillating claves. Hazy static noise is juxtaposed to eerie metallic synth washes. So far, there is nothing particularly Ambient-like, but if you listen closely, you will notice the whirling clicks, fragments and synth glitterings, although they are very quiet and reduced. A spectral, baneful drone is added soon, and a mélange of hisses, pulses and echoey bursts completes this mysteriously cold skit. While not being melodious at all, the various spluttering elements create a strongly vault-like atmosphere, and though the beats are pumping, they are in fact complementing the aura of mystique marvelously and never cause an overly strong tension. A superb track!

Drop 3 is the shortest track with a duration of just over four minutes. Rhythmical cymbals and curiously warm clicks and raindrops cause a feeling of purification and positive thinking, but soon enough the dark heaviness returns in the gestalt of a vestigial monotonous but multilayered synth pulse that itself seems like a beat or a related percussive element rather than a meaningful riff. Its punchiness is enormous and quite a bit frightening. Although it seems so hastily produced and overly simple, its pressuring effect hits a nerve and may cause a slight uneasiness or a larger panic. Not one single bit remains of the short section of warmth from the beginning of the track. Snake-like rattles add a pinch of a pristine lightweight to the mix, but the track remains in terrifically (or terribly?) dark territories, making this the top-pick of Dark Ambient fans. To let you in on a secret: Drop 3 would have been the Song of the Month, but if it was, I wouldn't have had the chance to tell you about the awkward claustrophoby of the final track: Drop 4 returns to Tech House territory, but once more the atmosphere is loaded with creepy figments. A beat coupled with an eerily glowing loop of a synth pulse forms the base frame, while incessant clicks and crackles resemble organic swirls that transport the listener into a deep cave near or beyond the lake. The spooky synth loop is gently filtered and slightly twisted, but nothing much changes despite the listener's realization of the overarching concept …

… which leads me to the following conclusion: From Drop 1 onwards, each consecutive track is scarier, deeper and rougher than the previous one. While the first Drop contains tiny – if rustic – melodies, Drop 2 introduces a thick fog that covers the lake like a ferocious veil. The pressuring multilayered synth beat of Drop 3 adds a distinct element of tension despite being no beat in the classic sense, and Drop 4 presents organically clicking devices that wouldn't be out of place in the aforementioned debut album by Echologist. The question remains whether this is an Ambient EP? I would say yes, for sure. Firstly, the beats aren't obtrusive or deceptive because they always underline the surroundings of the track perfectly. Secondly, the supposed background swirls and fragments are tremendously fragile and sophisticated. If you listen closely, you feel the freezing but soporific tranquility beyond the beats, although it is often whisper-quiet and not always easily audible. The drones, the clicks, the hazy noises are all remnants of the drone genre and thus create an atmosphere that is often found in Dark Ambient tracks. The Silent Drops EP is the perfect choice for fans of Gas' darkest album Zauberberg which is similarly beat-driven, but is based on real violin strings of orchestral dimensions. Still, these two releases can be coupled without a doubt. Voices From The Lake come up with a scary album that is yet deep enough to have a weighty meaning which is often lost on many EP's; these four skits weren't grouped together arbitrarily, but display a clear story arch or aural development that make the EP aesthetically valuable. As I have been told recently via Twitter, Voices From The Lake even came up with a full-length album in 2012 which I will review at a later point. If it's anything like this release – dark, minimal but full of pulses and life –, I should keep my eyes closed and my ears wide open.




Ambient Review 075: Voices From The Lake – Silent Drops EP (2011). Originally published on May 23, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.