Vhr-1.7 – Lost Angle (Eilean Records, 2014)

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Komatsu Kei, aka Vhr-1.7, is a Japanese sound designer, focused on researching sonic textures and “accidental intents”. I often have a hard time coming to grips with albums produced in a fashion that seems more focused on generating the greatest array of textures possible with, it seems like, little to no regard for how each of the pieces comes together as a whole. Lost Angle doesn’t quite conform to my admittedly heavy handed bias but it certainly feels like some important emotional facet and thematic concept has been lost here that makes it a little hard for me to love.

Opener “Lake Side” introduces us to this fascinatingly detailed textural world but ultimately unemotional cerebral experience, opening to delicate looped fragments of birdsong that become slowly crushed and warped as the piece progresses, marrying themselves with the crunching emergent drone as our little pleasant corner of the world becomes cloaked in night and turns into something wholly more eerie. It’s just a shame that it gets dragged out for so long; six and a half minutes in span where half that would have been sufficient. It’s here that the album also becomes separated into its two distinct and repeating halves; the first, the glowing drones and dense, oppressive, miscellaneous electronica, and the second, the sparse and quiet introspective moments of delicate synth ambience that yearning title track “Lost Angle” takes. The synth is jaded and oscillating, supplemented by thin waves of hopeful and ethereal drone as it seeks to remember what was once lost.

“Meon” is even more dark and crushed than its predecessor, rolling out in fragile meanderings of minimal synth movements and stuttering drone to fill the void. It feels like we’re under the microscope, gazing rapt at the molecules floating aimlessly about in the vacuum and occasionally nudging one another, slight disturbances throwing chaos into this tiny and delicate world. This sparseness is never invoked in the same capacity again, although there are some interesting counterparts; “Kalon” brings a moment of reprieve with processed wind and rain and passing car noise filling out its introspective moment, lazy guitar twangs quietly and gently rising through the wist. “Tope” is perhaps the last instance of contemplation, haunting a café afterhours and hearing the clatter of the preparation for tomorrow as it spins out almost clichéd piano tinklings from its smokey corner, something almost film noir reminiscent.

What’s left are the tracks with a little more oomph and bluster; “Occasion” turns “Meon”‘s microscopic delicacy around and disperses its fragility in its own rushing and luxurious dronescape, becoming kaleidoscopic in its glittering and fragmental tinklings, a deep moment deconstructed in a thousand slices with a thousand more possible outcomes. “Para” meanwhile brings back some of that suggestive menace of the opener but sends wailing and thickly distorted human voice up through the beacons of the urgent electronic foam above, their distress palpable but lost in space and time. The closer of “Meoncentric Theory” is perhaps my favourite piece of the record, however, carving out possibly the best structured and most evocative track thus far in a wash of thick drone and patterned, neo-psych reminiscent synthesiser, the slow and heavy handed macroscopic world interacting with the minute chaos of the microscopic, of God over Man.

It’s a decent enough release, to be sure, but I find it so hard to get into the groove and align myself with its emotional intents; everything is so coldly precise it really feels alienating and even in its most intimate moments it feels like we’re only allowed a fraction of a peek inside its disquiet mind. I realise it’s not necessary for an album to display a sense of continuity and overarching theme but I still like to feel that there’s a story I can latch onto, and with the lack of sympathetic moments here that thematic loss really hits home. I love a lot of singular moments on this, but as an album it really has a time of maintaining my attention.

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