Milk & Honey






Milk & Honey is the debut of Klimek aka Sebastian Meissner, and then in a way it is totally not. Released in 2004 on the force de Cologne, Kompakt Records, the moniker of Klimek has been used on many Pop Ambient releases before and after the album as well as on a 12" single that comprised of two tracks that are also featured on Milk & Honey. Apart from this alias, Meissner is also known for his works under the name Random Industries, but it is the melancholic ambience of his material as Klimek that made him famous. Focusing on a variety of guitars – a notable omission being acidic electric guitars – with accentuating synth layers, Milk & Honey paints a nostalgic mood that is never all too heavy or doleful, but resides on the soothing, laid-back and at times contempt side. If I needed to describe the typical Klimek sound to a video game fan, I'd link Milk & Honey to the post-apocalyptic beauty of Fallout 3, and indeed is the album linked to the landscapes of film genres such as Italo Westerns by Kompakt's marketing group. If you aren't afraid of the focus on guitar layers and nostalgic reminiscences, Klimek's album debut on Kompakt has a lot to offer.

(Sun)Rise delivers what it promises in its song title. Having been featured in edited form on the Pop Ambient 2003 compilation, it is based on a warbled two-note acoustic guitar riff which is accompanied by electronically tweaked guitar drones that waft and pulsate around this nucleus and are later accompanied by archetypical Pop Ambient synth washes of the humble but saccharine kind. The characteristic nature of Klimek's productions is already established: loops within a loop swell up and down, and rise again afterwards. During the slow decline of a loop, the ensuing space is filled with guitar ornaments, the sustain of the synths and the interplay between the various filters. It's a perfectly majestic point of departure, an electro-acoustic piece of humbleness that sounds rich and vibrant thanks to its droning layers, but still minimal enough to not fall into the Pop Ambient category of compositions that wash over the listener. Up next is Sand that is arranged similarly, but also full of weirdly warped acoustic guitars that oscillate between an earthen Hawaiian style and spacey dunes. Their sustain keeps howling in the distance for several seconds while counteracting glacial synth particles shimmer in the background. A third layer comprises of a misty synth that is again slightly creepy, but way too quiet and weak to take a stand and destroy the desert panorama Klimek depicts. While Wind is a beautifully mystical track with an enigmatic tranquility thanks to the foggy synth layers, almost unrecognizable guitar intersections and revved up claustrophobia in its middle section, thus relying more on the power of the synths than the characteristic traits found in the guitar superstructure, Home borrows a few of the tone sequences found on Wind and places them in an empty room that is filled with melancholia due to the heavily pulsating strings and the spectral iciness of the monotonous synth stream that floats in the background. While not exactly devastating, the mood is undoubtedly heavy and paints an almost post-apocalyptic Steppe.

Milk (Edit) presents the already known five-note bass guitar scheme as presented on Pop Ambient 2003. For a change, this is a strongly progressive, "forward-looking" guitar motif. Sure enough is the melancholia attached again, but the backing synths make this a more embracing, less baneful skit. Milk (Edit) encapsulates the positive nostalgia of an All track, a moniker used by Wolfgang Voigt for a particular sound aesthetic, but achieves this particular mood in a different way. The tonality is related, but Klimek puts the guitars to the forefront and hides the synth in the fissures in-between the loops. Honey (Edit), on the other hand, is the gloomiest of Klimek's offerings, with Middle Eastern guitar licks and their sustain merging incessantly. It is reduced, but also soothing and less punchy, with no incisive guitar in sight. It's all about the mellow bass and the Oriental textures of the guitars. This is hence a standout track, but inferior to the following (Sun)Fall which is a terrifying arrangement that presents Klimek's reliance on ambiguity and twilight in a pitch-perfect manner. Downfalling bass guitar loops à la Svarte Greiner provide a chilling base frame despite their organic warmth, and both the attached baneful haze that sets in after the guitar loop reaches the lowest region as well as the theremin-like Space-Age guitar twangs that cut piercingly through the redly glowing dusk further boost the eeriness. The sustain of each element is allowed to fade into the distance, providing a certain wideness and space that's only about to be covered after the third minute by a thin mist of synths plus clicking sounds that resemble cracking branches in the wind. The song ends with isolated twangs. Neither has this album been marketed as a Dark Ambient album, nor is Klimek linked to this genre, but this very song has it all, even though the guitars aren't electric. But the atmosphere is surely gloomy, if also solemn and soothing. But my decision stands: it's a terrific Dark Ambient piece. The perniciously titled Blood & Tears is an unexpectedly warm acoustic guitar-fueled track with slightly cacophonous twangs akin to Sand. Rhythmically swiping sounds, glowing sine pulses and cricket-evoking clicks meet and depart, making this a nocturnal track with scents of a bonfire atmosphere. The final Back Against The Sea relies on Meissner's electro-acoustic formula for the last time, ending the album on a mood that's more sweet than bitter. Bass guitar droplets are held together by mellow synth washes, an encore of the gelid cricket sounds and layered steel guitar chords, ending the album on a contempt note. 

The overarching mood of
Milk & Honey is hard to describe. Fans of electro-acoustic music are all over this release for a few years now, and even Drone fans might be more than a bit intrigued by the melancholia, despite the wave-like nature of this release. Instead of creating and maintaining warm guitar washes with interspersed synth accentuations, Klimek's loops usually have a clear beginning and end phase. It depends on the composition whether these phases are masked or stitched together via further guitar particles or synth ornaments; most of the time, they aren't, so instead of creating an ubiquitous sound carpet that washes over the listener, Meissner doesn't hide the loops. However, several additional layers provide variety and change the repetitive parts enough to not let them become dull. Let me stress that they are never getting boring anyway! However, be aware that the synthesizers are only used as accompanying devices. Milk & Honey is really all about guitars, be they of the acoustic, bass or steel group. Their delicate sustain is a second cornerstone, it always fades into the distance, so if this isn't your kind of Pop Ambient-related music, there's not much for you to fully enjoy here, I'm afraid. Dark Ambient fans will nod in agreement to the wonderfully eerie (Sun)Fall, which is the standout track for me, so go check it out via the link that is given below.


Further listening:
You can listen to Milk & Honey in full at the respective section at Kompakt.fm.




Ambient Review 117: Klimek – Milk & Honey (2012). Originally published on Sep. 5, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.