Daniel Klag – Permutations (Chill Mega Chill Records, 2015)


Daniel Klag’s mysterious synth excursions have provided us with interesting and enigmatic listening experiences in the last few years, with both Inner Earth and Twin Labyrinths providing introspective and unsettling themes with little in the way of suggestive commentary or artist insight to lead us to formal conclusions. Permutations is very much in the same vein, creating an elusive and haunting atmosphere throughout by employing the repetition and reworking of basic foundational piano sequences within each piece, every track a new and fresh way of reimagining the same content and each time with a different specific theme as part of a seemingly greater whole. That sounds rather esoteric I admit, but there’s few other ways of describing the album’s presentation.

Opener “Moon Myth” drives these first important and introductory sequences to make way for expectations of the album to follow; carving out smeared drone clouds from the processed piano it drapes them in a lightly obfuscating lo-fi fuzz, akin to guitar processings but one can never be certain with these things. It’s a simple and thinly luxurious piece awash with the same ethereal and pure light that the Moon exudes, its imperfect surface features occasionally finding themselves occluded by drifts of fuzzy clouds as we peer skywards; this is doubled down in follower “Cloud Cover”, finding its lighter and softer motions lost under a sea of processing. Although the piano lines still shift softly behind their clouding presence they have an enigmatic air to them, as though we’re aware of the continuing watchful gaze of our celestial partner even if we cannot presently see it.

It’s funny that we’ve recently had a solar eclipse here since it almost feels like Klag is referencing this within these tracks and their album mates; “Threshold” hovers on the edge of electronic indecision, unable to commit to its electronic nor its acoustic heart as it collapses the piano lines closer back to their original and tentative form, slowly tinkling alongside some distended oscillatory movements of electronica, circling the listener in an elongate moment of anxious wait for totality. The dying light of this lunar spectacle seems to reach its peak in “Soft Luminosity” as the sky dims and the Moon slides across the surface of the Sun completely, its dimmer corona drifting out around it like tendrils of light and flickers duck through the cratered and undulate surface of the imperfect body, expressed through the hints of assistant acoustic instrumentation slipping through the heady drone expanse, like softened and minimal impressions of its normally overbearing self.

I’ll admit that my eclipse comparisons break down somewhat in the remaining tracks; “Dense Liquid” is the more disparate of the two as it finds itself in dim and suffocating stretches of muted and melancholic sound; the growling fuzziness we’ve come to expect is no longer present and only the bassier frequencies find their way through the solemn watery depths, its pace slowed to reflect the reduced maneuverability we find in fluids compared to air and its lightness withheld to further duplicate the eerie darkness of the oceanic abyss, its deeps permanently eclipsed from the Sun’s giving rays by itself. Finally the even more mysterious closer “Wrought of Ore” arrives to conclude this experimental excursion, turning its predecessor on its head as it introduces menacing and much denser sequences than we’ve thus far experienced, the piano typically smeared and haunting but the other processings and lo-fi warpings feeling even more entrenched and dark, crushing us in its bleak textural load.

It’s a strange one for sure and my musings are clearly incomplete or missing some important facet or angle to bring this album together as a whole. While I had reservations that this reworking and repetition of a central theme might cause the record to feel a little stale, Klag pulls it off rather well, each piece feeling distinct and separate from the others, especially towards the end of the album where things become increasingly esoteric. The reworked piano drones keep a sense of familiarity across the album without boringly weighing it down and even if I feel like I can’t ascribe some sense of a complete picture this record is attempting to paint, well, it only seems to make me want to listen again and see where it is I’m going wrong.