CD-R, Dars Records, 2008
From the Russian label Dars Records, known for its eclectic and challenging catalogue, comes an intriguing effort from RachMiel (Rachmiel? rachMiel?), “Vortex Engine.” Ostensibly grounded in an old-fashioned IDM aesthetic, with a healthy measure of just plain experimental electronic, the sixteen-track album – if one can call it that – comes off as more of a trickling, abrupt and disjointed collage of exhibits rather than a coherent release. Limited to 100 copies, “Vortex Engine” sees the artist exploring diverse musical concepts, more from a theoretical stance than a necessarily listenable one, unfortunately.
The most telling criticism about this release is simple: the listener will be hard-pressed to play it entirely, from beginning to end, in one sitting. Collectively, the album approaches a sterility and passive antagonism found in only the most uncomfortably clinical of settings. From track to track, it jumps at random among the templates under scrutiny, and contrasts appearing within many tracks can be disconcerting. However, this is precisely RachMiel’s modus operandi, this exploration of extremes and oppositions. At times pieces approach the melodic; “Waking Dream” has electronic toots and whistles meandering over a circuitry-loop beat, and “Haus’Lich” is both jittery and musical. There are mischievous instances, like bubbly “Secrets of the Ancient German Sex Magicians” (tempered by swarms of digital locusts sweeping through), and the obnoxious “BreathLess,” with its manipulated cartoonish gibberish, grunting, sighing and squealing. On the other hand, more mysterious and subtle compositions, such as “MRI” and “Vegetative Bliss,” put forth a satisfying low-end accompanied by industrial atmospheres.
It is obvious that RachMiel is a technically competent and well-versed experimental composer and sound designer. After all, he has written a number of columns for Computer Music magazine, viewable on his own website. A good amount of thought and arrangement has gone into the pieces on “Vortex Engine,” however the reward for its audience is dubious. A personal favorite is buried toward the end of the disc – “Clear the Dance Floor, Baby!” has fabulously constructed sticky beats and ticking rhythms, traverses a discordant phase, and comes out the other side all dark and funky with a ghostly background. Clearly there exist some good one-off gems on this release, but it remains up to personal tastes to discover and relish them.
— Dutton Hauhart