A Fabric Of Beliefs






A Fabric Of Beliefs is the sophomore album by Lyon-based Maxime Vavasseur's collective called Witxes of which he remains the nucleus. Recorded in the French black mountains and near Lyon, it is released on May 17, 2013 on Denovali Records in the shape of a CD, two differently colored LP incarnations and a digital download version. A Fabric Of Beliefs is the fitting foil to the jinxed smoke-filled locations of despair, anger and hope that are gathered on Sorcery/Geography (2012, Humanist Records), a debut which is about to be reissued on Denovali with a different front artwork in May as well. If you know the music of Witxes by heart, the press blurb already comes as a surprise in regard to its explanation of the title and the conceptual arc, for it states that "the album is not to be taken as a concept nor as an experimental process but more as an underlying narrative," an explication that does not conform to my listening experience. A Fabric Of Beliefs might not be a concept album in the strictest sense of this shibboleth, but is nonetheless pieced together by leitmotifs and reappearing textures which are so mysterious and appreciable that they remain stuck in one's head and become all the more constituting for the body of Witxes' work. The manifold guitars of various kinds, the bells and chimes as well as the great amount of Glitch particles that are grafted onto the Drone washes create the titular fabric of eleven tracks, with three of them forming a suite called Through Abraxas, the oxymoronic centerpiece and anacrusis of the album drawing from textures and patterns that are as multitudinous as they are profoundly different.


Similar to the Ambient Dub combo The Orb, Witxes is a collaborative effort, with arranger and guitarist Maxime Vavasseur on the helm, Pierre-Loup Mollard reprising his role on the tenor saxophone, Fabien Mysak and Léo Dumont as the percussionists who make sure that the majority of the beats have that live aura and do not feel programmed, Frédéric D. Oberland and Nicolas Laferrerie aka the Free Jazz duo of Medecine Music as the additional percussionists, Clément Rhétorie on the acoustic guitar as well as Nicolas Mary on the bassoon. Not all musicians are featured on each and every track, but their skills and capabilities guarantee that A Fabric Of Beliefs is a proper electro-acoustic work, enchanting and bewitching, strikingly medieval at times, glowing much more wondrously than Sorcery/Geography and advecting less bile and harshness than its predecessor. It is way too early to exhale a sigh of relief, but oh so true: there is simply less despair in here; just contrast the track titles of both albums to spot the tendency. Vavasseur's driving force is the titular fabric with which personal mythologies, remembrances and convictions are woven. These forces cause great distress when traditions clash with the free will of living one's life, one woman's truth is another man's lie, and the things we perceive as real change their shapes and forms according to our biorhythm. These clashing entities – or fabrics – find their equivalent in the music, and so to my mind there is a concept. As I have stated just two sentences prior to this one, I at least perceive the album to be of the conceptual kind. You cannot spell fabrication without fabric, a fact Vavasseur boldly mentions in the liner notes. Music-wise, there are always two forces entangled in a fight over the reign of each track, brighter segues face their counterparts, become immediately enshrined… or interwoven. All these things considered, the sophomore album is still somewhat gentler. My detailed conjectures and inspections follow below.


A Fabric Of Beliefs opens with the three-part centerpiece suite spanning 17+ minutes called Through Abraxas which may indeed be put to the infancy stages of the album before all remaining concoctions, but is so incredibly essential and furthermore describes the characteristic traits and overarching structures of the sophomore LP in such an astutely explanatory way that I would describe its almighty impetus, sheer force and thunderous fluxion as mind-blowing if that very term would not already have been used to death. Sure, point the finger at me. This and the following paragraph of the review are solely dedicated to the serpentine gestalt of Through Abraxas. I believe it is worth explicating the magnitude of its suction. Abraxas is the name for the mysterious primordial being or conglomerate off which the entities spirit, expression, divinity, wisdom and power were distilled. With these meaningful essences in mind, Through Abraxas I opens with decidedly minimal yet mysterious Glitch sparks in a cricket-accentuated forest panorama. Soon enough, fiery crackles and abyssal guitar drones wash ashore. Their voluminosity slowly unfolds, and it is never clear whether the multi-faceted layers want to cause the listener to perceive them as portentous or pernicious, for they are strangely benign and warm. The horrific unchaining of rotor-esque shrapnel bass blebs as well as toweringly eerie string sections then give the answer: Witxes' Abraxas is a daedal demon which changes its formerly golden complexion to a sanguine color range, morphs its Drone physiognomy to a doom-filled Post-Rock pandemonium.


Asbestus-coated guitars, polar light sine waves and the mind-chopping stop-and-go notion come to an abrupt halt and lead to Through Abraxas II which launches in a similarly enigmatic fashion, but interweaves its ethereal-apocalyptic synth dichotomy right from the get-go. This 80's soundscape meshes with plinking crystals and wind chimes in adjacency to oscillating bass creeks. Maxime Vavasseur then adds steel guitar licks whose luminescence fades out into the background. This very background becomes increasingly black and less bustling. The guitar sequence is charged with amicability and melancholia, a strict counterpart to Part I. Gentle drops on wooden surfaces coalesce with shawm-like Middle Eastern spirals which cross-fade with Through Abraxas III, and what a fulminant finale this is! First soaked in diffusion with a malevolently pulsating bass aorta, the sizzling glints return yet again and stay in close proximity to train-like rattling sounds and jinxed yet enthralling synth globs. The typical railway structure is getting enormously loud and outstabs every other element until it is accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Clearly working his way to the climax, Witxes and his bandmates inject melodramatic electric guitar matrixes to the scenery, hence allowing the suite to culminate in a Punk-infused euphony of eminently euphoric proportions. Even if Through Abraxas is loaded with distinctive and diametrically opposite parts, Witxes carefully balances their traits and makes sure that ferocious parts float into a moist mystique, rapid-firing passages meet soothing susurrations and motifs like the coruscating firefly-resembling scintillae reoccur regularly.


Even though the Abraxas suite might be the obvious show-stopper in terms of its duration and polymorphous appearance, it is the prelude to the arcane, seemingly medieval-flavored things to come: The Strands feels enormously sun-dappled and is figuratively awash with gleaming light, without causing the allusion of being overly saturated. The opposite is the case. Friendly, warmhearted and crisp acoustic guitar layers unite with silkened sine waves, classic piano tones and iridescent chimes. A placid synth placenta twirls in the background, neither distracting from nor permeating the pristine thicket of purified guitar strings. Even though a presumably freely flowing or improvised drum kit layer complete with dynamic cymbals and hi-hats is added to the scenery, The Strands keeps its seraphic – or better still: joyful – aura until the very end. In comparison to the designedly grim apparitions on Sorcery/Geography, it is a delight and the best example that the project of Witxes is able to enchant listeners with truly good-spirited compositions. While the following The Apparel returns to the dusky gloominess of the debut album via a gallimafré of creaking cranks, shady drone coatings, deliciously deep bass airflows and a wailing-dissonant muted saxophone amid a laid-back yet driving drum kit architecture, The Breach is a hybrid Glitch-Shoegaze intermission loaded with frosty jitters, hibernal shards and analogue clouds in its first 30 seconds, with the second part drawing from a violently overdriven acid haze but curiously enough contributing a simultaneous boost of the tense clouds. A classic short track, The Breach is a microcosm which showcases the ubiquitous ambiguity as the opaque agenda that traverses through A Fabric Of Beliefs. An astonishingly cohesive shape is then presented with The Visited, a glaringly synth-oid ocean kicking off in medias res, with all of its crucial ingredients already firmly in place. Distantly bagpipe-resembling helixes twirl around pumping dark matter pads, rivers of aqueous synth choirs, piano sprinkles and elongated cymbal blizzards. Relying as much on liquid textures as on susurrant melodies, The Visited is, as it is said, a belter of a track, highly luring, even languorously so, causing an incessant flow of elation.


The Weavers then epitomizes the distressing manufacturing procedure of piecework with the inclusion of rapid handclaps, murky bass drones, spectral-fuzzy guitar-and-string washes as well as chain saw-like protuberances which build anew after each eruption. Torn between jocular rhythms and a crepuscular dejection, it is yet another arrangement draped in twilight which highlights the golden thread of disparity. Up next is The Pilgrim, a particularly progressive piece whose opening phase consists of earthen and hatched brown colors, shadily buzzing sawtooth waves and film noir saxophone strains, but changes into a magnificently bright maelstrom of drum kit coils, angelic faux-synth gusts and static noise splinters, whereas The Turned is an alatoric-arbitrary Ambient track, albeit with an intriguing structure comprising of catchy Blade Runner-esque trembling pads and translucent glitters which commingle with a completely different field recording sequence of either a chirping bird or another forest creature, with the guitar schemes residing in the background. The penultimate offering The Words has a most notably meaningful title, for it displays Maxime Vavasseur's vocals in the spotlight and establishes a connection to two of his songs, namely No Sorcerer Of Mine, the outro of Witxes' Sorcery/Geography and only other song with fleeting Pop specifications, and The Strands with its blooming guitars. Almost akin to a rustic bonfire ditty, The Words might be radically reduced, but makes up for its minimalism by the means of its constantly pondering subject matters à la "we only see what we believe in" and the "woven myth," two of the perception-related phenomena that thematize mankind's wish and driving force to overcome sensory impermeabilities. The shelter-imposing guitars allow the weight of Vavasseur's vocals to unfold their meaning all the better. This acroamatic state is then severely crushed by the finale, but in a hugely unexpected way: The Moonlit Passage is proper Pop Ambient supercharged with gargantuan amounts of comforting guitar currents, string nebulae and contingently synth-based layers which turn to blazingly vivacious rivers of pure bliss. The majestic solemnity bursts at the seams, feels like a divine apotheosis and ends A Fabric Of Beliefs on a monumentally thankful, rapturous note. Witxes creates an ebullient anthem that is not compatible with the endemic timbre, but blasts away all doubts via its transcendental aurora. An utter delight!


In striking contrast to the execrated Sorcery/Geography, Witxes' sophomore aural spell tome A Fabric Of Beliefs seems to have accepted life's vicissitudes, fortuitous accidents and windows of opportunities. The debut album was an especially cinematic, crestfallen and at times downright hopeless Dark Ambient entity with misty artifacts of fragile hope and cautious restarts. A Fabric Of Beliefs seems to go down the same path on the opening suite Through Abraxas, but it soon becomes clear that each and every of Maxime Vavasseur's actions provokes a counterbalanced reaction: a turbulently grinding acidity of brusque guitar segments faces strongly becalming structures in various twinkling, sparkling or other melodious and soothing states. The album never feels like a typical Drone album, as it takes the best and ever-bubbling particles from the adjacent Glitch genre as well as the more distant Folk, Dark Ambient and even Pop styles. The result is a conclusive ubiquity of stylistic assurance or even command. Witxes as an omniscient council knows what it has to do in order to either maintain or banefully disturb the listener's equilibrioception; the performance on the drum kit is deliberately easygoing in order to keep both a softer pace and a sense of realness in the bewitched yarn-laden fabrications, no harm done in this case, but the incessantly vesiculating bass bursts are hectic at best and frantic at worst, adding a second layer of iniquitous ostracism to many a composition. A Fabric Of Beliefs may feel lighter and overclouded, but there are enough dubious inclusions to prevent an interpretation of these loftier devices as "more accessible," "easier on the ears," you name it. The strong shifts make it a demanding, albeit rewarding listening experience. While the overall content- and sound-related quality is beyond all doubts, I have my favorites, or to be more precise, my own fabric of beliefs: Through Abraxas is anything but an experience in the true sense of the word that must not be torn apart, The Visited feels wide, attractive and so friendly that it is a breeze to submerge into its lilac hue, The Strands emanates guitar-driven beams of golden light, and The Pilgrim features a splendid performance of Pierre-Loup Mollard on the tenor saxophone, reminding of a forlorn film noir theme akin to the Estonian collective UMA's Meeting Unknown (2012) which shows the same tendency in their productions. A Fabric Of Beliefs is the nocturnal yet well-lit brother to the haze-filled cinematic darkness of Sorcery/Geography. Another strong fea(s)t.



Further listening and reading:

  • Listen to and purchase A Fabric Of Beliefs at Bandcamp or buy the album from Denovali.
  • Follow Witxes on Twitter: @witxes.




Ambient Review 218: Witxes – A Fabric Of Beliefs (2013). Originally published on May 15, 2013 at AmbientExotica.com.