Surface 10 A Stray Ending (2023)
“This is pure art for ears in a tapestry of tones generated by a very creative mind”
1 Neverheart 6:00
2 DT5 United 5:14
3 Pre-realm 11:17
4 Mac Took Air 8:47
5 You Died Before Time 7:35
6 Azz 9:46
7 Dorothy Spearhead 4:36
8 Non Fi 9:33
9 Universal Winter (Rework) 7:42
(CD/DDL 70:46) (V.F.)
(Psybient, Electronica, IDM)
The lapping of waves is clapping! Is this possible? In any case, it illustrates very well the sonic dimensions of this latest album to be released on the English label DiN. It's been a long time since Surface 10 produced an album. Dean De Benedictis? The man behind the Surface 10 project is also rather quiet. His last album, Salvaging the Present, came out in late 2016. He made his presence felt on the very stunning Hemispherica Portalis (Portal Of 1000 Years). A tribal and psybient album made with Deborah Martin under the band name Desensitized in 2020. It seems that he is much more involved lately in the 7th art. And you can hear it through the 9 musical chapters of A STRAY ENDING which is his 3rd opus on DiN. The 2 others, that I never heard, being In Vitro Tide (DiN8 2000) and Surface Tensions (DiN24 2006). And like Salvaging the Present, A STRAY ENDING is a musical work that is difficult to tame and where you have to persevere in order to discover all its richness and especially its depth. We are in the territories of neo-psybient with effects of glitch, rhythms and non-rhythms suspended and/or intersected in ambiences where the sound surrealism becomes impressionist landscapes. The palette of styles exploited in this album meets the creative ambitions of its author who likes to flirt with the essence of Electronica, IDM and Indie rock with his electronic psychedelic dose in highly cinematographic tonal textures and whose horizons flirt with an unrealism that is ideal for dystopian visions. All of this is wrapped in the immense creative capacities of electronic music (EM) where all sources of sounds are exploited in a context that transcends its usual boundaries.
Neverheart's waves of applause turn into a choir of specters which hum over the slow and wide undulations of an emotive bass line which is deadly for our need of moving. Its movement sculpts a languidly driving ambient rhythm, like an ethereal waltz. Various sound peaks stigmatize percussive tinkling resonances, drawing the ear into this universe where intermittent beats and rhythm sequences become incentives to discover this album. The sound setting has nothing to envy to the cold ambiences of the leading bands in the field of alternative psybient such as Carbon Based Lifeforms or Solar Fields. Otherwise, closer to DiN, Lyonel Bauchet and Nigel Mullaney. Except for Universal Winter (Rework), the tracks of A STRAY ENDING evolve to migrate towards steadier rhythm structures, igniting even more the sound scenery of each track, like in this Neverheart. Dean De Benedictis also flirts with the more accessible Berlin School style with a track like DT5 United that sounds like a Tangerine Dream soundtrack, especially with the sequencer à la Chris Franke. The track starts in ambiences exploited by Beck in his Mellow Gold album to start twirling and beating in a good electronic Indie rock. The rhythm is fluid and embraces a circular motion that relies on a good sequencer mesh that makes dribbling and stumbling its rhythmic chords, with electronic and other percussion elements that sound like sonic trappings for a video game. The synths divide their personalities between chthonian shadows, that crisscross the evolving path of the beat, and atmospheric layers filled with morphine-derived smoke. The longest track on this 70:46 album, Pre-realm exploits the more conventional structures of contemporary EM with an ambient opening from which emerges clattering hooves and its rhythmic structure suspended in anesthetizing synth layers. An industrial rumble is heard at the turn of the 2nd minute. This is an opening for a very slow rhythm that intrudes into a flora of percussive elements and sound effects so diverse that it becomes impossible to describe, to categorize. The rhythm appears in phases, some more vivid than others, reaching a moment of emotional intensity around the 8 minute mark, before Pre-realm returns to its roots. Mac Took Air draws an atmospheric structure with short phases of rhythm, and their opposite, continuously interrupted. The track is rich with percussive bursts that tinkle and resonate in the mesh of electronic orchestrations and their hazy staccato spurts that remind me of some of the moods of Vangelis' Soil Festivities album.
There is a certain dramatic vibe behind the structure of You Died Before Time. The setting is very futuristic with an apocalyptic vision. As long as the synth waves have that Blade Runner scent, while the hooting and that indecisive rhythm structure remind me of Solar Fields in Until we Meet the Sky. Let's just say that the music breathes the meaning of its title. It sounds vaguely like a video game soundtrack with machine gun effects and spectral wails that move through the rhythmic evolution of the music. The electronic arrangements are intense enough to give you chills. It is the kind of track that we like more and more each time we listen to it. The same goes for Azz which projects us in the borders of an Acid Jazz. A deconstructed Jazz to which it misses more than the letter J. The structure is intense by its electronic percussions game and its bass line to the wide ovulatory undulations. The rhythm changes of skin, passing from sharp, curt to moderate while remaining in the same parameters, except for one or two passages more harmonious or more atmospheric with corrosive vocal samplings. King Crimson, sorry Dean De Benedictis, adds some guitar textures, confronting our ears and making them want more. You may have noticed, I like to draw parallels between the different music I hear! Like this cross between hip-hop and downtempo of Dorothy Spearhead which projects me in the universe of Death in Vegas and their excellent Scorpio Rising album, we are in the Indie rock here. The bass is heavy and undulates ferociously in a tonal decoration which exceeds the limits of an already overflowing imagination. Non Fi offers a very driving rhythm that flirts with an Electronica soaked in this Indie rock zone with sonic squiggles whose tones are akin to dialogues between machines and aliens. Speaking Vangelis, speaking Blade Runner, Universal Winter (Rework) ends this impressive tour de force that is A STRAY ENDING with a highly cinematic atmospheric structure. The piano notes fall like grains of rain, pounding the vibrations of our emotions on the tarmac of our past. No, but what a way to conclude this quintessential creativity that is exploited at a level rarely heard by ears constantly seeking the improbable. Look no further! This is pure art for ears that is maybe not for all ears, but it's still intriguing enough to attract some others...
Sylvain Lupari (February 6th, 2023) ****½*
Available at DiN Music
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