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Demdike Stare Demdike StareTriptych

9.1 / 10

Demdike Stare  Triptych

MODERN LOVE

Things have worked out perfectly for Demdike Stare: the release of their new work in three parts—which vary in duration, from the two songs lasting over ten minutes of “Forest of Evil” to the seventy minutes of their last work, “Voices of Dust”, means that they’ve been being talked about all year, with more enthusiasm as more material emerges. So, because these three references have been released separately, initially only on vinyl, they already had enthusiastic reviews in the specialised media, and now is the time to gather all of this material into a triple CD, with the addition of a few extra songs, as if it had been put together by a director to contemplate a work that lasts close to three hours in all of its magnitude.

I suppose that Demdike Stare themselves would like this concept of the director’s montage, if we keep in mind that a fundamental element of their music is celluloid, and particularly the horror movies that they themselves program every week. There is much of the terror soundtrack in these recordings, redefining the imaginary soundtrack using ingredients from techno, dub, dubstep, ambient and drones to show, first of all, their mastery when it comes to creating tension, mood, and movement, elements that keep their music from being boring, as things are always either happening or about to happen. On the other hand, through this mixture of musical elements –in part a consequence of the fact that their music is based on samples– they offer an updated view of British pastoral paganism, the occult side that Rob Young set out in detail in his indispensable book “Electric Eden”. This is a paganism that has its cultural roots in the 19th century, and perhaps its best-known musical version would be the British psychedelic folk of the late 60’s and early 70’s, but Young continues to detect it intermittently in key figures of recent decades, such as Kate Bush or (already within electronic music) Aphex Twin, Boards Of Canada, and the entire Ghost Box catalogue. Effectively, nature is a basic element in the case of Demdike Stare, and one need only take a look at the titles of the songs included here, with references to forests, wind, dusks, skies, stars, and suns.

It is, though, a rarefied, threatening view of nature, as is reflected by titles like “Black Sun” or “Forest of Evil” and, musically, the use of drones and basses to create atmospheres that don’t let light out, evoking gloomy spaces, but which are at all times warm, sensual, and welcoming, as Demdike Stare can’t avoid showing the enthusiasm with which they piece together these sound landscapes, taking elements from here and there to get their music to represent the images that it could accompany. So their peculiar drone-dub-techno gives rise to memorable moments, such as “Repository of Light”, in which they also show their attention to detail and the occasional proto-techno element in the line of Manuel Göttsching, the industrial ambient of “Rain and Shame” or the two majestic faces of “Forest of Evil”. The rhythm of other cultures is another recurring element, which reminds one of those terror films with disturbing supernatural elements of Oriental or African origin –this would be the case, for example, with “Desert Ascetic”, which is a real psychedelic pandemonium, or “Hashshashin Chant” (don’t forget to take a look at the revealing video, made up of images coming, of course, from terror films), as well as some passages of “Dusk”,“Dawn” and “Bardo Thodol” .

The extra cuts that accompany these three albums this time provide some new nuances. “Quiet Night”, which is a fog of sound that is barely altered by small disturbances, stands out, along with “Nothing but the Night 2”, because Demdike Stare add synthesisers that make you think of John Carpenter’s soundtracks at the beginning, and then of techno, to the usual basses, dub, echoes, and Oriental elements. “Filtered through Prejudice” is like a dark version of the oceanic ambient of Dolphins Into the Future, and there are also the two parts of “Library of Solomon”, especially the second part, when Demdike Stare seem to want to find a place that is equidistant from Gas and Shackleton, a direction that it would be very interesting for them to take further. Precisely along with Voigt and Shackleton, some point to Demdike Stare as one of the great names in contemporary techno: they all have in common that they establish dialogues between techno and nature, whether through ambient, tribal rhythmic elements, or both things at the same time, and all of them have managed to perfect a very personal work, somewhat distanced from the dance floor, but very interesting when it comes to opening new means of expression for this music, but from Europe.

Iván Conte

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