Tropic of Coldness – Demography of Data (Organic Industries, 2015)


Sometimes it can be hard to know where you’re at with an album, with neither the titling nor the listening experience quite marrying up and providing some meaningful semblance of place and value as we proceed through the tracks. The curiously titled Demography of Data presents itself distantly and oftentimes fails to emotionally engage its subject as it blends a quiet and obfuscated balance of Ambient and Slowcore elements along its frequently unimpressionable 40 minute span.

Opener “Circles in an Empty Space” is still a decent enough introduction to this vaguely melancholic but not particularly leading sound, padding itself out with subtle field recordings and spacious ambient guitar wanderings; the distant echoic reverberations of further guitar lines really help to create some sense of scale and provide a helpful flow to the piece as we hear people and animals slowly move through the soundscape and appreciate the apparent disconnect from within our melancholic bubble. It continues to pick up a little strength too in the clouded and distracted “Brain Drain, Curly Girl” as the guitar pickings rise to the foreground over the daydreaming wind of smeared vocal lines and light drone obfuscation, tugging at our attention and drawing our eye elsewhere.

The mid-album tracks are a little disappointing coming down from these early highs though; cumbersome 10 minuter “The Distressing Dilemma of Rational Choices” spins overlong sequences of unmemorable guitar drones for its first half before eventually slipping into more Slowcore influenced movements in its second, maintaining a consistent, but not particularly potent, dark and hazy atmosphere throughout in its curlicues of supplemental field inclusions, but it lacks a lot of textural power for the most part to give it a sense of weight. The title track is mildly better since it doesn’t have an overlong runtime, keeping a cool and sterile distance as grittier guitars grind through the suspended drone fugue that shrouds the piece, but keeps some sense of perhaps being closer and sharper and more aware than it lets on to be.

Clear album highlight “Handover Letter” is the first real semblance of emotional strength expressed thus far; it spins out in a crackling backdrop of vinyl fuzz and tidal guitar drones and whilst it’s a little more predictable and cyclic than its siblings it just feels much more measured and deliberate, its cloudiness lost in moroseness and indecision, caught up in gently swirling thought that really seems to make a deeper impact here than anywhere else. And just as things are beginning to get good we have to leave it all behind as enigmatic closer “Our Breath, Away” arrives to take us out. It’s certainly the darkest and bleakest piece present here, languishing in obtuse movements of dark drones, the acoustic guitar’s mildly amiable presence lost as we drift in the dark, the whole piece just floating powerless in the abyss.

Really though it just feels like a collection of sounds rather than a cogent whole; there are, admittedly, some decent tracks here and at the very least it’s a moderately luxurious and peaceful listening experience, but it just fails to appeal to me emotionally and impart some sense of overarching meaning; without that central pillar to prop it up it just feels like a morose collection of pseudo-Slowcore constructions. It’s disappointing that it lacks a specific focus and doesn’t have anything else on the instrumentation front because this could have been a much more powerful release than what we’re ultimately presented with.