Hecatombic Ambient Meets The Mesozoic V
Still is an Ambient-oriented four-track EP by Wisconsin-based artist Jack aka Back Pain, Y2K or, well, No Death. Joint-released on Midnight Moon Tapes which provides a limited run of soon to be available rectangular data storage containers, and Bedlam Digital which covers the digital distribution and streaming, the EP can currently be downloaded at either site. Usually, Jack is fond of the Vaporwave scene, delivering both kaleydoscopic vignettes and adaxial tracks. His moniker No Death differs a bit in that the ambience is (also) in the limelight, and in terms of Still, a wondrously faux-Eastern, cave-scattered and temple-featuring focal point is erected. It embraces the shadier interstices and secret passages and radiates healthy doses of light.
Still is hence best described as a suntrap, which you obviously cannot spell without the words sun and trap, the latter of which, however, doesn't refer to the Trap style but any cloak-and-dagger installation used to kill off the victim's recalcitrance… or the victim itself, mind you. Three of the four tracks are titled Lone and are numbered not just for the purpose of convenience, but also in order to stress the differential states and ogival-orthogonal textures in an otherwise cohesive concept, whereas the final track being called Lonely. One of the tracks, Lone 2, could even be called the epiphany or diorama of the EP, what with is runtime south of 17 minutes. Here is a closer look of Still and three of its contiguous themes and tendencies.
Acidic Arabesques Amidst Saffron Sinews
That Still is an Ambient album and remains confident of its state isn't a given right from the get-go, but there's plenty of constituents that make the EP an exciting genre artifact. Two of these luring entities come in the shape of the above-mentioned acidic arabesques and their caramel-colored underbrushes. They usually protrude the lactic and thus friendly turmoil by means of their scything immediacy as in Lone 1, serve as a simmering and soothing Detroit-oriented haze/gauze bokeh that is magnificently amicable as in Lone 2, or return to an adamantly granular metallicity in Lone 3, a quasi-addendum to the opener whose steelification is revved up there. Gunmetal versus saffron, the matte of cerulean skies behind a sandstone-tinted temple: Still is based on static architecture and lacustrine lakes pointing leeway.
Translucency Through Twilight
Leeway via harmony, freedom qua textural wealth, but also: translucency through twilight. No Death's EP is not always embracing the listening subject with open arms, figuratively speaking, as every euphonious tone sequence is toned down by means of harsher textures or cavernous elements. The majestic long-form track Lone 2 with its 17+ minutes of runtime is the expected shapeshifting counterpoint, but at least its magnanimously stretched anacrusis is loaded with echoes that add a vast emptiness to the heatwave, diminishing its stoically petrifying aura in the most splendid way. These silkened temple gongs or gourd hits even add an aqueous feel to the adiabatic locale too! Less asphyxiation, more aurorae; a winner is you! The claim "Translucency through twilight" also refers to the covalent bonding that takes place in Lone 3: softly ligneous-crystalline rain pads drib within the glaucous lanthanum reticulation, but they reside in the distance, with their moisture turning into mucous ooze at best… or an ignis fatuus at worst. Every bright element faces an opaque orogeny.
Every Pyramid Needs Elevators, Or: Caulk Like An Egyptian
Light versus darkness, yup, heard that one before. The effect, however, is evenly distributed throughout Still, though not always perceptible. Once No Death lives up to the implication of his moniker, the intrinsic languor blooms and prospers. In these moments, Still turns into hydrazine. The behemoth Lone 2 is but one prime example when its latter half is ameliorated by a mechanical but ethereal loop akin to an elevator control room. The machinery is screeching and fuming (Hardvapour anyone?) but the frequency range is deliciously dampened and experienced through a mellow moiré. The peaks and highs are lessened, the energy retained but human(e). The finale Lonely meanwhile takes the cake in a different manner by functioning as the suave sunset-red Oriental oyster complete with sitars and a Mallsoft appanage. Here, the elevator works differently: not its mechanical parts are simulated but the very song itself that might play in such surroundings. Oscillating between moony mysticism and rubicund Rhodes reels, Vaporwave trickles into the manifesto, and not a minute too late. The darkness is caulked.
Kneel Before Your Serpents
No Death's Still is a bewitching EP, devoid of any living human being, but worshipping the rem(a)inders and vestiges of the architectural prowess that is luckily polished and cleaned in order to appear glowing, incisive and precise. From what I can tell, there is no sample used from somewhere else, and if it is, one shouldn't expect the slowed-down mélange of 80's Synth Pop that so frequently protrudes the slowed-down stature known as Vaporwave. In fact, even name-dropping the V-genre comes with its own bag of problems, but I do feel that Jack enshrines both musical entities to great success. Still avoids being perceived as incidental or environmental music, also known as collages of found sounds and field recordings that let the synth-based effort merge with the real world. This here EP emits a delightfully apocryphal and synthetic erethism while still adhering to various endemic locations, be they stokeholds, crypts, balconies or, yes please, the elevator/lift in the temple. The sweeping melodies and alkaline surfaces remain in the barycenter all the time, they are the serpents, so by all means: kneel before them, feel the marble-alloyed floor, touch the bricks, you're alive and lost in time in No Death's Still.
Further listening and reading:
- Buy/stream/load Still at Bandcamp: Midnight Moon Tapes, BedlamDigital.
- Artist and labels on Twitter: @_backpain @12amMoonTapes @BedlamTapes
- Articles about Jack on AmbientExotica are listed here.
Ambient Review 464: No Death – Still (2016). Originally published on Feb. 22, 2016 at AmbientExotica.com.