Tábor Radosti – Agartta

Tábor Radosti - Agartta

CD, Aliens Production, 2011
www.taborradosti.com

I first became acquainted with the Czech band Tábor Radosti, meaning “pleasure camp”, while living in Prague a few years ago: the darkest of ambient electronica, presented by two mysterious figures wearing ceremonial masks, with a host of occult imagery filling the backdrop. A disembodied voice, intoning ominously in Czech, marked out the sonic side of the performance well. Intrigued, I purchased their latest album, “Lamat”, which had a powerful overall sound, but was somewhat lacking in memorable moments.
After five years, Tábor Radosti have returned with a follow-up, “Agartta”, which is their fifth album in total. They have obviously been hard at work developing their sound, as this has the variety and impact I was hoping for. “Divinorum” opens gradually, from minimal ambience, through a creeping electronic bass line, up to some grand chords with the familiar deep voice incanting obscure words. The next track, “Synchronicita”, is short and to the point, raising the tension nicely with intermittent bursts over relatively uptempo electronics. Many other tracks on this album are also under the four-minute mark, which serves well to keep the pace up, giving a sense of a dramatic film score moving from one thrilling scene to another.
New elements keep “Agartta” interesting and fresh, such as more orchestral-sounding instrumentation and occasional female vocals. During “Tenze” the emergence of near operatic singing is quite an impressive surprise, although the awkwardly accented English arguably lessens the quality. “Integrita” has the more subtle spoken words of Arcana vocalist Ann-Mari Thim, whose native Swedish lends proceedings a satisfyingly esoteric feeling. The title track features slow, heavy beats above more urgent rhythmic parts, creating a powerful tension which makes the sudden reappearance of the usual Tábor Radosti voice actually quite frightening! The album closer, “Fohat”, is another clear highlight, with jaunty, off-balance strings giving the album’s nightmarish air a particularly queasy, unsettled edge.
The short duration of the main album has been complemented by four remixes of apparently previously unreleased tracks. Most notably, Ah Cama-Sotz offers “Catastrophobia” with trademark Middle Eastern percussion building up to more modern breakbeats, topped with ethereal synth washes. It would have been preferable to have more original Tábor Radosti work, especially after such a long wait since the last album, but that is just one of a couple of minor complaints about what is generally a quite enjoyable piece of very dark electronica.

[7/10]

— Nathan Clemence