CD, Marbre Negre, 2009
Persona is a band of many faces. On this lengthy record they attempt folk, martial, dark ambient, neo-classical and even power electronics – and find success with none of them. Nonetheless, I give this band credit for trying to mix so many styles, often two or three per song. While the majority of the songs are of mixed genre, a few are predominately dark ambient or bordering on neofolk, and a couple even veer into abrasive, noisy power electronics territory. The problem with “Ruïnes” is not the variety, but the fact that these tracks simply are not interesting. Not enough happens within any given track; they feel overly sparse, empty, and directionless, which results in almost all of them sounding like filler/interludes for a martial and/or neofolk record. Most of the tracks involve a very minimal soundscape (drone, piano, noise, etc.) with vocals over top. The vocals come in three styles: spoken, male singing, and female singing. The spoken type is fine, but generally boring – it’s like hearing a speech (I think most, if not all, of it is sampled speeches, actually). The male sung vocals are pretty bad/silly and thankfully don’t appear often. The female vocals are hit or miss, sometimes even rather elegant, but they almost never seem to mesh with the given track, especially the melodic elements.
The main downfall of this record, however, is the abysmal production. In the days of computer recording and tons of free, quality plugins it’s sad to hear such poor recordings. Due to the bad production, any elements that could have potentially sounded strong and powerful (the martial drumming, the pianos) now sound painfully thin, weak, cheap and muddy. The martial elements have no weight or punch (and half the time are barely even audible), and the atmospheric ambient elements just sound like gritty, amorphous sludge. The melodic components, which typically have a nice pattern, are too unclear to sustain my interest.
Although some interesting elements make an appearance here, especially the neofolk-ish instrumentation, as a whole, Persona is unable to craft memorable, finished-sounding tracks. If they refine their style, become more proficient with structuring and layering elements, and greatly bolster their production, they could produce a truly interesting blend of the aforementioned genres, but for now “Ruïnes” isn’t going to see any more time on my playlist.
— Dan Barrett