steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion

Nicholas Szczepanik

"The Chiasmus" CD

Basses Frequencies / Sentient Recognition Archives

Genre: drone, ambient

Washington, DC

November 2009

A record such as Nicholas Szczepanik's hefty The Chiasmus is a pain to review in several respects. This sort of sublimely expansive, drawn out drone music simply resists verbal description. The album's haunting, reverberating sound is, perhaps, encapsulated best by the album's title - throughout the record, one is endowed with the intense feeling of being dropped into a chasm in the Earth.

Szczepanik's slow-moving electronic drone is industrial and subterranean. On the third composition, for example, one hears a hollow, breathing hum and the distant patter of rain and birds chattering; it's a sobering juxtaposition between a menacing underworld and the vitality that exists, fleeting, above. As the composition wears on, the mechanical aspect of the piece grows and eventually fades, giving way to an empty yet sensible airiness.

By contrast, the fifth and final composition - and the longest, at nearly twenty minutes - is consistently ethereal, ebbing and flowing with a sense of ominous resolution. Despite its comparatively gossamer nature, however, it retains the sense of being caught in a chasm thanks to its slow-moving, echoing character. Like all of The Chiasmus, it is intense, evocative, and overwhelmingly wonderful. The album's main fault - and I consider this to be a flatly malevolent operation on Szczepanik's part - is that it begins and ends with a cruel, inexplicably brief burst of harsh noise. This unnecessary manoeuvre is nothing short of a crime, seeing as the album itself needs to be played loud to be enjoyed, but remains a comparatively insignificant (yet still dreadful) pox on an otherwise immensely significant release.

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Michael Tau

[Vitals: 5 tracks, distributed by the label, released 2009]