Posted by: Jimmy For Reals on April 13, 2014
It’s been a fair while since Downliners Sekt closed out their outstanding run of breakthrough EP’s with 2011’s Meet the Decline, a handful of remixes and singles notwithstanding, there’s barely been a peep out of them since. Thankfully, this week heralds the arrival of a new album in the form of Silent Ascent, which finds the Catalonian producers on exceptionally fine form. For the uninitiated Downliners Sekt made a fairly bold statement when they first arrived on the scene by releasing a whole ruck of insanely good music for absolutely nothing, referencing everything from 2-step garage to industrial techno yet somehow eluding all attempts to pigeon-hole their sound. Whilst some of their tracks could hold their own next to any hardened battle weapon, they often eschew impact for depth; even at its most upfront their music always seems like it’s on the verge of collapse, frequently turning in on itself to ruminate on what has just come to pass, signature riffs looming out of the mix then drifting by, their impact just as soon forgotten in a haze of introspection and meditative calm.
It gives the impression that their focus is on developing the story instead of getting hung up on the highlight reel and on Silent Ascent Downliners Sekt have further tightened and polished this approach. Every element in each composition seems carefully considered, perfectly measured and sparingly used; the title track’s arresting opening chords exemplify this approach – quickly fading into the background after the opening bars, only to re-emerge in depleted form to softly draw the track to a close. Likewise the signature Burial-esque vocal cries are sparsely distributed, giving way to myriad elements of vocal and percussive texture, each adding their voice before fading away once more. The effect is immersive and gripping; without reference points to grasp onto its like listening in on someone else’s lucid dream, underscored with an innate circadian rhythm which provides the only tangible signpost to guide your way.
It’s a theme which is carried over throughout the album, particularly on the more robust This American Life and lead singles Balt Shakt I & II, but what really ties it all together is the haunting ambient interludes Hors Phase, Reversal and Give Him Your Heart. Elsewhere they take a less conventional line on Junior High and Etern; the former coming alive with a cacophony of found sounds, detached voices and wheezing pneumatic percussion amidst a murky ambient wash, reminiscent of everything from Mount Kimbie’s early experimental manoeuvres to the halcyon drone-techno of The Field, whereas Etern’s mesmerising cyclical loops come across more like a mixture between Darkstar’s wheezing opening missives and the torpid house beats of Holy Other. All up it’s a thoroughly impressive album, one that proves more approachable than much of their earlier work, yet somehow manages to maintain and even reinforce their distinctively enigmatic and impenetrable sound.
Silent Ascent is out now on InFiné Music
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