CD, Tympanik Audio, 2008
Within roughly a year of its founding, Tympanik Audio again delivers another memorable release. The emerging North American label has attracted some first-rate international talent since its inception, one of the freshest being Mike Morton, a.k.a. Displacer. Dearest listener, brace yourself for a hair-raising, ultra-chill experience. Oxymoronic, without doubt, but apt all the same when describing Morton’s latest tour de force, “The Witching Hour.” Bringing together the staples by which Displacer has built a name – ambient, dub, hip-hop, downtempo, breakbeat – the album yet progresses the project’s ever-developing sound by incorporating elements of turntablism and trip-hop, entwined with a definitive thematic orientation: things that frightened young Morton. Stating that it was his goal to write a tighter concept album, one seated in a nostalgic horror motif, Morton delved into memories of Washington Irving and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and the thrilling film scores of Henry Mancini to reproduce the anxiety found in his earlier work, albeit channeled in a new direction. For the most part, the gambit hits home.
The narrative samples on opening track “Low Moral Fiber” set the mood, ensuring that the seed of dark paranoia planted there will continue to flourish throughout “The Witching Hour.” Added to this are the telltale scratches and cut-up samples evidencing the album’s decidedly turntablist twist. In addition to the opener, tracks like “To Live, Love, Die… Or Kill!” and “Nag Champa” typify this facet. As well-executed as anything Displacer does, the interjections of manipulated vinyl seem a bit astray in contrast to the customary hypnotic and undulating, bass-infused atmospheres. But that’s not to say Morton’s unique roots don’t still shine through. “He Could Destroy the Earth” recalls in part a more classic Displacer sound, and the befitting industrial undercurrent of “Nightbeast” is unmistakable, driven home by a penetrating pulse. Considering the inherent horror dynamic, a few tracks might seem surprisingly atmospheric and relaxed. “Warriors in God’s Army” overcomes this with shivering percussion that lends tension, while the ethereal quality of “Squirm” is tempered by a wormy glitch line that consumes its otherwise calming effect. Of course the seething title track showcases those familiar, bone-chilling violins, straight out of a Hitchcock flick, though distorted toward something of a slouching Grendel gait. Thirteen tracks in total (how appropriate), the disc includes five quality remixes by such artists as L’Ombre, Larvae and Autoclav1.1.
Listen to “The Witching Hour” past midnight, if you dare, but keep careful watch on the shadows, and be sure to glance behind once in a while…
— Dutton Hauhart