Night Of Sense






Attenuated is the Drone project of Ian Kennedy, Night Of Sense is his first proper EP, released on Space Slave Editions in May 2012 in a limited run of 50 cassettes. The release is available for free at Bandcamp. I am reviewing this EP months after its initial release date as I tend to do quite often with manifold releases that stay with me, so let me stress how deep and enchanting this four-track release was, is and remains even after dozens of listening sessions. The EP has grown tremendously on me, and to give you a little foreshadowing hint of the main body, the opening track is still unbelievably colorful and uplifting. Since Night Of Sense is Attenuated's debut – if you strike the prior self-released track duo The Central Region off Kennedy's discography – it is at the same time a showcase artifact, presenting the songwriting, synth-tweaking and drone-creating abilities of the artist. Such being the case, the artist injects many different moods, but three things are permanently maintained: the texture quality of the various synths, strings, drones and saxophone layers is very impressive, and they all sound either fresh and clean or purposefully acidic and rusty. Secondly, Night Of Sense is built on two-sided frameworks, meaning that one particular mood or sound is often oppressed, but never fully defeated over the course of an arrangement. This duality reigns in three out of four compositions. The moods shift from ethereality over bliss to intensely electrifying places. The surprise level is huge, due in large parts to the aforementioned variety of the textures: I instinctively know that I have a luring release before me when I cannot correctly guess the origin of an electro-acoustic particle. Finally, the density of the layers is rich and vibrant. This is not a Glitch-focused Drone release with a contemplative fragility and a pastel hue. Attenuated blasts everything away and creates huge panoramas that triple the impact of every occurring motif or undertone. And the first two tracks are pitch-perfect examples of the overwhelming flood of details. 


Wireframe Fantasy turns out to be an enormously eupeptic and diaphanous starting point awash with light and positive energy. The fade-in phase lasts a mere two seconds before the drone piece reaches its fully fleshed out voluminosity. Incredibly warm synth organs with an infinitesimally Doppler-accented wonkiness coalesce with whimsical traces of dissonant strings. Bedazzling brightness, rapturous majesty or solemn happiness, each description is equipollent. The apex introduces square lead flutes and machine-like drone rivers which are admittedly energetic and grandiloquent, but not able to swallow the set up euphony in its entirety, let alone the – now towering – two-note space flute melodies. The magnanimous amount of textures, the constant cascades of the streamlined, whitewashed and purified surfaces is all the more curious if the track title is taken into account. Wireframes are grids, streaked with perfectly formed fissures and holes. This soundscape is not. It is a stream of pristine bliss, the level of felicitousness is permanently maintained, all patterns glow in blazing colors. An awe-inspiring, literally flamboyant opener where nuances and overtones are immediately washed away. The following Becoming Shared is equally fulminant, but its aura much more thunderous and tense: bumblebee-evoking piercing vuvuzela-esque stadium horns intermix with interpolated Blade Runner-resembling dark matter pads. Depending on the background of the listener, this particular soundscape can either be called the work of a genius or an audacious impudence, for the adamant superimposition of these brazen horns causes pleasant goosebumps by sport fans across Europe or, on the contrary, deprecatory frowns. Maybe in order to please the latter group, the klaxon horns are suddenly besieged by the celestial ethereality of light blue-tinted synth streams and accentuated static noise frizzles. The admixed abyss of deep bass drones and a slow decline of the layers leads to a long fade-out phase with harsher electric buzzes. Becoming Shared is intense and begs for high volume levels. If the listener does not succumb, not much is lost, since the impetus of the soundscape is huge on any level.


Counter Moods is another descriptive title, referring to the elemental forces which are torn apart by their different traits, causing a strict duality that has heretofore only been partially unleashed by Ian Kennedy in the opener. Threnodic bagpipe-like synth strings waft incisively around a thin noise creek, the mood is irresolute, partially pompous and then fragile and transfiguring. After about four minutes, the arrangement opens up and shifts its form thanks to one additional element and a processing effect: a churchly organ which is placed in the background and a sudden pitch downwards which catapults the counteracting sounds into doleful climes. Occasional bass bumps expand the eeriness whereas the present structures are pushed forward into the final phase of the mix, a phase which stacks layers of grinding overdriven Shoegaze noises that splutter and spit until they make room for the – now transparent – bagpipe legato to fade out and put an end to the song. Counter Moods is the most progressive piece by Attenuated, and even though it runs through a complete metamorphosis, it ends the way it began, worshipping its origin. The final composition is the eponymous Night Of Sense, and it is here where Kennedy views the concept of progression from a different angle. The sound layers grow continually louder. The opening phase comprises mellow but coldly streaming sequences in minor, liquedous flecks and warmer polyphonous strings. The blurriness in the background increases, as do the different textures. The backdrop is sumptuous, and as it grows, the wraithlike encapsulation increases as well. Piercing saxophone tones and the gorgeous propulsion of a passing train or an airplane engine round off the climax of this song which ends all of a sudden. I would have loved to bathe in the vehemence and steeliness of this high point a bit longer. The ending feels rushed, but does not degrade the cleverly entangled layers that have been presented heretofore.


Night Of Sense is a magnificent debut EP, but since I am reviewing it many months after its original publishing date – with a full-length album called Deep Opacity already on the horizon in July 2013 –, I am all the more surprised that my level of excitement has not waned at all. Whatever synth Ian Kennedy drops in a mix or whether these are even synths at all, he makes sure that the textures feel fresh, intensive and fitting. It seems so easy to create electronic Ambient music, and in a way this is true to a certain degree, but the tweaking and the tiny improvements and alterations of the layers make Night Of Sense so impressive. This is loop-based music, but you cannot pinpoint the exact length of a loop. And once this is possible, Attenuated advects time-shifted layers or unchains a huge machine-resembling critter which covers the formerly clear cut sounds like a veil; this tactic allows the backing sounds to shimmer through and keep the flavor of the track intact, even if it is as progressive and changing as Counter Moods. A second big achievement is the interwoven saxophone. Sure, it is used in the final stage of the titular outro, but where else is it used? Are the bagpipe vuvuzelas of Becoming Shared sped-up and heavily processed saxophone tones? I'm not skilled enough to unravel the truth, but not too worried about my lack of knowledge when it is so perfectly tranquilized by the colorful sounds. The glowing opener Wireframe Fantasy is the weakest and strongest track of the EP, for its permanently kindled supreme happiness might be a bit old-fashioned in our times where a simple black or white scheme with only one particular mood is not deemed en vogue anymore. Whoever shares this notion can simply skip this example of enormous vivacity and move to the remaining three tracks which juxtapose differing, more complex but never convoluted patterns. Night Of Sense has not lost anything of its magic and remains a big favorite of mine. And it is available for free!


Further listening:
You can listen in full and download the EP for free via this Bandcamp link.


Ambient Review 219: Attenuated – Night Of Sense (2012). Originally published on May 22, 2013 at