Monolyth & Cobalt – Myths Landscapes (2012)

Frenchman Mathias Van Eecloo is a busy man according to his bio, producing not only music under this moniker (and this is technically his fifth album), but also under other aliases as well as being a performer and photographer the rest of the time. He found the time to drop me an email recently inquiring whether I would be interested in doing a review of Myths Landscapes, his latest album to drop on the Somehow Recordings label, and I agreed.

But before we can begin listening we must be extremely q.u.i.e.t, for Myths barely makes a blip on the EQ radar and any distracting extraneous noises are going to drown out the sparse and minimal ambient being played out. For this reason alone the only time I’ve been able to play this to experience it properly is at night, in bed. Even then, even with the volume boosted, it still feels distal and asymptotic, like no matter how far you reach you never quite get close enough to it. Standing right in front of and around the music is an empty silence that hovers darkly.

As a result the music feels distinctly vague and blurred; the instruments involved are playing out very precise and careful melodies and are buried by silence. It’s easy to forget sometimes that emptiness has the same effect as too much sound; this is certainly true for the first two tracks at any rate, which play out smoothly and unobtrusively, before finally moving into a more reasonable range of hearing with “Aärtschäaft”. Drone at last becomes obvious as it slowly climaxes alongside piano tinkerings with a real sense of discord between the two as they slowly rub against each other; one playing out delicately and aimlessly, the other striving to land itself on top and smother everything.

“EcuME” is probably my favourite piece here though, a 7 minute gem that sees a piano harmonium used in the most peaceful way, forging ebbs of slow drone while some unnameable instrument (mandolin?) plucks softly and intermittently, an almost Free-Folk intrusion slipped effortlessly into the heart of the album. There’s a real sense of loneliness and isolation here; the soft sounds  are the only lights in a deep darkness that buries this piece. This seems to be the running theme of the album, and becomes clearer to me as we go though.

The somewhat uncomfortable feel is particularly clear on the final track “Nos Cendres Sont Visibles Du Ciel” (Our Ashes Are Visible From Heaven). Again this track revolves around a great deal of discord and a very disharmonious atmosphere in the plethora of overlapping textures, from the piercing drone incursions to the arrhythmic acoustic instrumentation. Despite this the last couple of minutes are incredibly beautiful, filled with yearning and remorseful strings and Basinski-esque drone sequences that barely fill the oncoming silence with their melancholy. Suddenly the music stalls and the drone dies out abruptly, swallowed up by the darkness at long last, having resisted for 50 minutes.

This album reminds me in many respects of another album I reviewed earlier in the year by Nuojova, except this is considerably more ambient orientated and does away with the need for lo-fi recording. While the album certainly doesn’t have the same lightweight feel because of this, it still creates an aura of discomfort; behind these quiet and precisely drawn up melodies there is a menace in the expansive silence that lurks just out of sight and makes itself known by manipulating the directly listenable melodies to create an atmosphere of tension through fragile and discordant sonic textures lain precipitously on one another.