Paths That Lead
Paths That Lead To Nowhere is the latest album of Matthieu Jacquot aka Err0r_500. Released on September 22, 2012 in order to coincide with the autumnal equinox, the Paris-based artist is keen on delivering this equinoctial balance throughout his release, without ever succumbing to a strictly formulaic build-up. The six tracks are very dark and spine-tingling, painting a crestfallen and intimidating atmosphere with the help of electric guitars, various bells, chimes and lots of Glitch elements. Fans of Svarte Greiner, Prosektor, Ben Frost, Be My Friend In Exile and horror movies will be all over Jacquot's offering which is much more texture-driven than melody-focused; in fact, it's quite hard or next to impossible to carve out or isolate distinct melodies from the created sceneries. The genre description can thus rightfully range from Abstract Ambient over Dark Ambient to Glitch Drone or even Modern Classical thanks to the inclusion of scattered piano notes. Whatever noise or sound the listener encounters, it is almost always heavily processed and altered in manifold ways, hence it is this aggressive use of tone-changing knobs, devices and sound filters that make the album so glaringly alienating and sizably in its scope. You can listen to the Paths That Lead To Nowhere in full on Err0r_500's dedicated Bandcamp page, and doing so before or after reading this review will be worth your while, as the mysteriously uneasy aura of the album is very intriguing, challenging and provocative. But much more about it below.
… To The Twigs launches the album with a synergetic hybrid of faux-didgeridoo and static noise-infused sine wave eruptions of the gloomy kind that resonate with the pitch-black distance in the form of chirping cyber birds. A sitar-like guitar injects the sizzling-hot mirage of an Oriental bedouin village. Spluttering frizzles of an overdriven electric guitar plow their way through the sands until the ecclesial dissonance of vintage organs pierces through the Glitch particle-filled air. There's no logical, progressive description that would to this opener any justice, and if there is, I'm incapable of delivering it, I'm afraid. It's an intimidating, wondrous piece that entraps the listener in a well-saturated sepia-colored scenery of thermal heat in both legato and staccato, or to use an oxymoron: streamlined protuberances. Its bold Middle Eastern atmosphere is filled with heavy aural molecules, a hypnotizing interplay between sound, sustain and space. It is a murky arrangement which relies on golden-shimmering beams of power which altogether deny it the state of a nocturnal composition. Matthieu Jacquot captures so many genres and styles in this Ambientscape that the result cannot possibly be anything else but an overwhelming hodgepodge of ebullient dust… except that it is not. The flow of … To The Twigs is captivating and entrancing, its apocalyptic wastelands seducing and luring. A gargantuan opening track! The following From The Duckweeds To The Barb Wire Fence unleashes thousands of frantic harp-like spiders which seem to crawl straight out of a horror B-movie. Reverberated sunset-red Balearic acoustic guitars mesh with this insectoid maelstrom and start to play out of phase a few moments later, evoking a futuristic psychedelic diorama which is augmented further thanks to downward spiraling cylon outcries and terrifyingly lamenting spectral figments whose howling caws clash in the eeriest way with the potentially warm but ultimately dusky glints of the guitar twangs. This ghostly bonfire atmosphere is creeped out to the maximum when the brazen metallic clangs and drones of manic machines grow in volume and presence, swallowing the pluckings until there's anything left but gelid bells. The horror! It's a Dark Ambient track par excellence, occasionally mellifluous, but all the more baneful in most of its moments. The plasticity is again very vivid, for the intertwining of reverb and sound bursts is again traversing through the whole arrangement. It's for the strong-minded listeners who like their Ambient music bloody and gloomy.
From The Abandoned Quarry To The Ant Colony is the third composition, and shiver me timbers if this isn't the most accessible Ambient track by a wide margin; which doesn't say a lot in the given circumstances intrinsic to Jacquot's style, but my observation still stands, as the first 30 seconds of AM radio frequency-laden ring modulators lead to a surprisingly cozy and mystical cave full of wave-like sound washes with an ensuing silence shortly thereafter. It is after 90 seconds that a deliciously mellow marimba-esque guitar plays a rudimentary but quiescent melody while koto-like licks and acidic guitar drones round off the most intimate setting. There's less bile and danger in this tune than on any other offering, and I am particularly fond of the Far Eastern tone sequences and the enigmatic panorama that is painted with the help of this instrumental mélange. 8-bit retro computer bleeps fire rapidly but joyfully in the background all the while the electrifying sustain of the marimba offers many moments of relaxation that are amiss on every other track. It's a particularly strong outing, less shocking and decisively more entrancing. By now, the listener gets a feeling about Jacquot's trick in terms of picturesque track titles and differing realizations in the medium of sound, and From The TV Noise To The Shingle Beach is no different. Unvarnished wind gusts, a rustic guitar monotony with complemental static crunchiness and a hair-raising warbled Rave bagpipe are literally forced to work in tandem, resulting in galactosamine twinkles and icy eruptions of blue-tinted lights. Tony Scott's electro-acoustic experiment Prince Of Power of 1988 comes to mind, and Jacquot's sculpture is at least as far out and harsh. The warmth of the droning electric guitars only boosts the crystalline shatters and sharp edges of the ornaments. After the first whirling phase, the storm calms down and allows a gaze onto surprisingly dreamy wind chimes, glockenspiel cascades and almost steel guitar-mimicking Hawaiian chords. The whirlpool is revved up in its final phase with blood-curdling guitar notes that are altered beyond recognition, imitating the screams of androgynous mutations in adjacency to a rumbling 60's string psychedelia in the foreground. A completely galactic experience.
From The Sacred Pond To The Lichen sounds more auspicious and silky, that is as long as you just stare at its title. If you actually listen to it, your mileage will vary, as Err0r_500 tries to find the balance between a moon-lit landscape of romance and a strongly portentous danger. Croaking frogs and crickets greet the listener, harking back to the first part of the title, with glacially plinking guitar notes adding fragility and actual blitheness to the scenery. During this piano arrangement, the insects gather harmoniously around the pond, but it is the sudden bursts of static noise that crash into the incandescent scenery, turning the solemn tranquility into a pernicious playground: wobbling clangs, quavering electric current and cacophonous chords expand the frightening atmosphere further. If there is one track on the album where the static noise feels particularly threatening and alien, it would be From The Sacred Pond To The Lichen. I wouldn't be surprised at all to encounter the infamous Slender Man in close proximity to the pond. Yikes! The final nine-minute-landscape of From The Ferns… finishes the album in a progressive way. Whereas the opener … To The Twigs seemed to present a contingency-dependent melting pot of crackling melodies and coruscating motifs, this outro launches with gentle, if also dark bass guitar drones, and adds several glistening clangs, bit-crushed burps, liquid laser sounds and elastic bubbles to its base frame. Gentle clicks and deliberately thin, sky-high guitar strings waft around the dark nexus, but despite their thin traits, the volume level does increase due to both an almost celestial vibraphone or chime stream in the distance and a rising number of the just mentioned embellishments. The album closes with a slow fade-out phase of radio frequencies and sine waves.
What an enchanting, intimidating and threatening album! Err0r_500 delivers a highly experimental soundscape that is still accessible enough for skilled listeners to enjoy the aural feast in front of them, where by skilled listener I mean the certain clientele that favors guitar-fueled Dark Ambient compositions, hibernal Glitch particles and purposeful contretemps, with static noise molecules rounding off the sinister potpourri. While I haven't explicitly mentioned the overarching trigger concept of Matthieu Jacquot, I have still nabbed it in many of my descriptions: it's all about symmetry. This symmetry, however, isn't perceptible from the get-go and cannot be grasped immediately, but is hidden in many fissures and cracks of his latest album. I might be too far off here, but I would even consider it a symmetric concept when each and every song is disturbed, altered and penetrated by static noise waves. Likewise, the omnipresent wave-like scheme of silence and sound is all over the album. Jacquot has neither created a parabolic symmetry, nor a wave spectrum-related one, but demonstrates a story-driven incarnation. The listener moves from one point to the other, and likewise does the last track only mention one location, as does the opener. Both can be connected and form a vicious cycle. A very vicious cycle. There's a darkness attached to each track that is full of wrath, and I contest you to distill one single hummable and joyful melody out of the many layers. It's an impossible task, as the highly eclectic patterns in the tradition of Karlheinz Stockhausen or György Ligeti fend off any try to catch and pin them down. Jacquot has delivered an intriguing Dark Ambient album: from the Oriental opener that forcefully grabs the listener and throws him into an apocalyptic void over the static-noise blitz which destroys a quiescent pond scenery to the decidedly balmy enigma of a cave-like maze, Paths That Lead To Nowhere is a calamitous critter that is highly recommended to all horror buffs and lovers of harsh cinematic compositions – and who knows, maybe you're skilled enough to unravel and feast on the crystalline 80's synth pad beauty of the lachrymose bonus track … Lachrimae which will be made available on a certain date when light and darkness have equal lengths…
- Matthieu Jacquot’s Twitter handle is Err0r_500.
- His dedicated – and very colorful – website for Paths That Lead To Nowhere explicates the overarching concept of the album further.
Ambient Review 124: Err0r_500 – Paths That Lead To Nowhere (2012). Originally published on Sep. 19, 2012 at AmbientExotica.com.