Vex'd, Kuedo, Roly Porter

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Vex'd: Degenerate (2005), 6.5/10
Vex'd: Cloud Seed (2010), 5.5/10
Kuedo: Severant (2011), 6/10
Roly Porter: Aftertime (2011), 7.5/10
Roly Porter: Life Cycle Of A Massive Star (2013) , 6/10
Roly Porter: Third Law (2016), 7.5/10
Roly Porter: Kistvaen (2020), 6/10

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

British duo Vex'd, i.e. Jamie Teasdale and Roly Porter, with the double-LP Degenerate (2005) helped dubstep transition from the Burial's dejected spleen to a more truculent and menacing mood (more akin to industrial than dub music). The emotional impact was much more diluted on Cloud Seed (2010),

Jamie Teasdale retreated to a much mellower and sophisticated sound on his synth-sculpted solo debut, Severant (Planet Mu, 2011), credited to Kuedo and more influenced by Vangelis' soundtracks than dubstep.

Vex'd's Cloud Seed (Planet Mu, 2010) continued the project but with less imagination.

Porter also crafted the ten abstract electronic pieces of Aftertime (Subtext Recordings, 2011) in an ominous dark ambient style. The atonal overture Atar mixes futuristic and horror overtones. The subliminal Tleilax, instead, is all the opposite, a nervewracking suspense that explodes in a war soundtrack. Corrin is a dissonant concerto for machine sounds that towards the end enters a touching humane dimension via rippling melodramatic drones and melodic strings. The next vignettes form a concept of sorts: a lulling funereal murmur transports Al Dhanab into an exotic monastery, although the crypting ending sounds like a vintage arcade videogame; by the same token, Hessra sounds like solemn, elegiac church musicIX; and this segues into the celestial, ethereal Caladan. Then the ritual of self-destruction resumes with the spectral foggy cinematic ambience Giedi Prime that slowly reveals a landscape of buzzing and hissing machines (not aggressive ones, but angst-ridden ones), possibly the album's highlight. The journey ends with the brief finale Arrakis, a shard of symphonic agony rising to cosmic proportions like a Klaus Schulze remix of morbids passages from Schubert adagios With this work Porter suddenly jumped to the forefront of post-classical music, leaving behind absolutely no evidence that he was ever part of the dubstep scene. This work bridged his generation and the new wave, picking up where Throbbing Gristle's D.O.A. had left off.

Roly Porter's post-dubstep career continued with the transitional Life Cycle Of A Massive Star (Subtext Recordings, 2013). The ten-minute Cloud begins with a sub-bass vibration (like when the orchestra sharpens its instruments before the conductor walks in), and then launches into a percussive stutter over floating cosmic drones. The eight-minute Gravity contrasts ambient drones versus industrial horror a` la Throbbing Gristle. Both these pieces (the longest on the album) display the same limitation: the second drags on without any real development. The dusty swirling nebula of Sequence is a simple ambient exercise, whereas Giant is a hodgepodge of sub-bass terror, industrial banging, alien signals and grating noise that coalesces in a ball of fire. These are rather childish compositions. On the other hand, the controlled explosions of Birth, that secrete a kind of pastoral cosmic music with galactic "om"-like drones that borders on new-age music, and that's probably the peak of the album. While not much of an album, this work helped Porter push beyond the beat and into free-form soundsculpting.

Roly Porter's soundsculpting mission became more introverted on Third Law (Tri Angle, 2016). The first two compositions are purely atmospheric: the eight-minute 4101 (cosmic music for strings but morphs into a catastrophic horror soundtrack) and especially the ambient In System, with a slow, solemn, requiem-like "violin" melody overlapping a sub-bass rumble.
Porter is more effective in the pieces that display his cinematic side: Mass concots a menacing industrial ambience with shifting polyrhythms and Middle-Eastern overtones but then evolves via a psychedelic invocation towards a chaotic ending. The brief Departure Stage is a psychological study: the melodic motif rises out of a jungle of subliminal glitchy drones and keeps swelling towards the quasi-symphonic finale. In Flight, a concentrate of creepy suspense, exploits the initial percussive stutter to venture into a sidereal haze of vibrating spacetime fabric and quantum vacuum.
And Porter's main skill is his masterful choreography of cacophony. The eight-minute Blind Blackening secretes dilated opalescent ambient fluctuations and roams the lugubrious galactic spaces of Schulze's Irrlicht. A confused accumulation of sounds creates a faux paradisiac calm that in reality exudes tension and terror, that in reality hides and buries bursts of violence. The brief High Places hides choral and orchestral grandeur under a fragmented, diluted miasma. Known Space blends sparse extraterrestrial drones, dilated vocals, electrostatic vibrations and a keen sense of (actually) the unknown.
Porter indulges in dynamic, unstable, catastrophic textures. His compositions are glacial landscapes littered with dormant geysers of digital sounds. Porter's soundsculpting embraces a mixed aesthetic of crumbling glitch music, of clattering industrial noise, of shimmering Brian Eno-esque ice, of lugubrious hallucinatory "kosmische musik" and of abstract ambient drone music.

Roly Porter's Kistvaen (Subtext, 2020), originally a multimedia collaboration with visual artist Marcel "MFO" Weber, indulges in mystery and horror. The eight-minute Assembly summons shamanic invocation amid metallic thunder and thick gothic organ drones (but the last three minutes are wasted). Electronic lava erupts from the eight-minute Burial and then spreads jarring, ear-splitting drones over a desolate landscape from which nonetheless a melancholy adagio for strings rises. An electronic vortex swallows the female vocals of An Open Door. The 15-minute Passage is a dramatic composition that toys with extreme droning noise but in a rather erratic manner. The album closes with the angelic cosmic music of Kistvaen. Compared with his artistic peaks, this is not much to talk about. It's average abstract sound-painting of the kind that has been made since the boom of new-age music in the 1980s.

(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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