LABEL: Tympanik Audio
REVIEWER: Matthew J.
A new project based in Greece, Subheim is off to an auspicious start with this debut. A mixture of melancholy ambient textures and understated electronic rhythms, this album is unapologetically experimental, yet still quite accessible, with bittersweet harmonies creating a much stronger sense of human emotion than one usually expects from dark electronic acts. Composer Kostas K establishes that human connection from the get-go; opening track "Hush" begins with a gentle pulsing that resembles nothing so much as a heartbeat. "One Step Before the Exit" is just as tender; with its soft ambient tones sustained over a gentle rhythm, it sounds like a sad lullaby. Much of the credit for Subheim's accessibility belongs to vocalist Katja, who performs on three of this album's most affecting songs. "Howl" is one of the album's most cinematic compositions, with thick layers of synthesizers providing a majestic backdrop for Katja's spoken word recitations; a second vocal track sees her accompanying herself in the background with distant ghostly singing. "Hollow" is less dramatic but perhaps lovelier, with subdued electronics and deep ominous drones providing a perfect backdrop for Katja's wordless wails; it's very much like a more purely electronic version of Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard's solo material. Similarly exotic is "Intact," which sets shimmery plucked string tones to waver over a stark breakbeat. "Voces Perdidas" is more stripped down, with Katja's haunting voice drifting eerily over delicate piano phrases. Finishing things off are two bonus remixes; Germany's Mobthrow sets "Hollow" to a laid back breakbeat, while fellow Greek act Flaque offers a more purely ambient take on "One Step Before the Exit." An album that's gorgeous for all its sadness, this is a masterpiece of dark ambient that manages to bring a sense of human closeness to a genre that's all too often empty and remote.
Visit Subheim's website at www.subheim.com.
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