CD, Geska Records, 2007
Finding the right words to describe “Faces” has proved a more elusive task than it seemed. My initial encounter with Stendeck, mediated by an already established inclination toward such noise/ambient projects as s:cage and Gridlock (incidentally, Mike Wells is credited with mastering the album), could not be anything but one of intrigue, and later, admiration. Behind Stendeck is Swiss artist Alessandro Zampieri, a classically trained pianist who turned to electronics as a mode of musical expression, and has since cultivated an enthralling and shamanistic sound. “Faces” is a sublime journey through mind-bending, supple synths and ample chords, punctuated by crunchy, ductile beats. Distinguished by meticulous layering, rich veins of percussive noise, fat bass saturations and annihilating crescendos, the album is indicative of an imagination both otherworldly and tremendous. A difficult style in which to excel, the industrial-ambient interface Stendeck envisions is as emotionally penetrating and introspective (just look at the song titles) as it is epic and exuberant (just… listen).
Although the entire album is riveting, the portion bounded by three ostensible interlude pieces, “A Perfect Place to Say Good-Bye” (piano), “She Watched the Corners of the Roof and Then She Left” (glitch/beats) and “The Porcelain and the Girl I Dreamt About” (bells/chimes), contains some of the most engaging music on “Faces.” One after another, these several tracks coalesce into a logical progression for those in need of soulful resuscitation. “Behind Waterfalls” opens with a sticky, percolating synthesizer rhythm, soon subsumed in the background by a melodic helium-trip groove. Interweaving notes in “The Woman Who Burnt on Her Bed” offer the sensual paranoia of building flames, and the heartbreaking “Steal Flowers to Make Drugs” builds off of aboriginal drones while edging into breakcore territory. At first muted, a jarring shift makes the off-key bleeps and rough beats of “Nocturnal Manoeuvres Before Dawn” that much more effective.
Without question, standouts also inhabit the first and final portions of the seventeen-track “Faces” in equal measure. The menacing, falling chords and counter-beats of “Anywhere Out of This World” mirror the keening tones and emotional outpouring evident in “All the Things I Wanted to Tell You But I Didn’t” (as the title suggests). “Like Falling Crystals” is a powerful breaks-rich hymn to the divine, later countered by the primal atmosphere of the brief but unnerving “Frames and Teardrops.” Finally, “Faces (Where are You Now?)” erodes away with a long and melancholy piano outro trailing into cathartic nothingness. Thus what I experienced in “Faces” was a transmutation of polarities – joy and terror (fecundity and desolation, light and dark, etc.) became interchangeable, and in essence, exhilarating.
— Dutton Hauhart