Ordeal - _Ma|an_
(Eibon Records, 2002)
Sola Translatio - _Ad Infinitum_
(Eibon Records, 2002)
Svartsinn - _Devouring Consciousness_
(Eibon Records, 2001)
by: Quentin Kalis (8 / 8 / 8.5 out of 10)
The above three artists are acts signed to Italian label Eibon Records, all exploring similarly minimalist, dark ambient soundscapes. Whilst all bands make strong use of minimalist instrumentation, Svartsinn's use of the concept makes the other two CDs sound terribly cluttered. Their bleak, uncompromising sound is only occasionally interrupted by a brief emergence of neo-classical strings or a piano tinkling mournfully in the background. The very emptiness of their music creates a bleak, extremely desolate atmosphere. This album may very well be the aural equivalent of a desert -- a seemingly empty, uninviting place, yet closer inspection reveals a whole new world denied to the casual observer or listener. Continuing my comparison with nature, at times throbbing sound emerges, like the heartbeat of some great beast, providing a slightly more organic feel to an otherwise extremely cold and impersonal album.

Sola Translatio make use of percussion and samples of organic sounds to provide a more human feel to what would otherwise be an extremely cold and impersonal album. They apparently do not believe in brevity in song writing, as evidenced by the fact that each of their songs averages over twelve minutes. Sola Translatio creates the distinct impression that they would have been perfectly happy to release _Ad Infinitum_ as an album with a single song and that releasing _AI_ as an album with five tracks is merely lip service to conformity and a concession to the listener. Sola Translatio's songs are largely amorphous, directionless meanderings, but to see this as a negative aspect would be to misunderstand the point of the album.

Ordeal's release encompasses the most variety, with each song immediately distinguishable from the others, yet at the same time (paradoxically) monotonous. Ordeal succeed in generating a deceptive sense of great simplicity and seeming effortlessness. _Ma|an_, like the other two, is best listened to at night in a darkened room, with a perhaps a candle or two burning. Or you could have it playing as background music, as something to listen to whilst engaged in some other activity. You might not even be aware that it's playing, as this is the kind of music that you might not even notice playing. But what would be the point? It's not easy to recommend one album over the other, as they are all of a similarly high standard, and whilst they do sound similar, each contains elements not found on the other two and the importance of these elements depends on what you sound you wish to hear. However, yours truly has, by an exceedingly slim margin, picked Svartsinn as the best of the lot. This is a choice based on the extreme emptiness and sadness of _Devouring Consciousness_. But basically, if you like one album then you'll like them all. These albums won't be to everyone's taste, but for those who are open-minded enough to appreciate it, they are well recommended.

(article published 3/7/2002)

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