CD, Ant Zen, 2011
“Organic.Aural.Ornaments” is the recent collaboration between rhythmic ambient/industrial/tribal producer Empusae and the more ambient Shinkiro. I’m not terribly familiar with the latter, so I can’t comment on how well this release melds the two artists’ styles, but I will say that this doesn’t entirely sound like an Empusae release. The tracks are simply titled “First Ornament”, “Second Ornament” and so forth.
Things get off to a very slow start, as it takes several minutes for anything of note to happen in the first track. Eventually, though, layers do start to pile up and take on a coherent form. This track, though too lengthy, builds a wave of consistently rising tension, as if acting as a harbinger to foretell of an epic journey that waits at its crux. The track never truly climaxes, but it works as an intro to build some momentum and, in a way, suspense for the coming tracks. The second track is a very nice, slow moving, emotive ambient piece with many layers of sweeping synths, drones and very subtle sound effects and rhythmic elements. Similar to a drawn-out Empusae intro, this track continually sways and evolves as it moves along, never becoming stagnant or directionless. The album, in my opinion, hits its stride with the next three tracks, which are the strongest and most interesting.
Tracks three through five would easily feel at home on a typical Empusae album; they combine his progressive ambient style with trademark tribal-esque percussive elements and rhythms. The beatwork here is very well done; it has solid production and the drums have a good groove to them, which gives them an organic feel, as if they were actually played rather than stiffly banged out by a drum machine. Similar to his work on “Error 404: metaphorical loss” (2005), these are epic tracks which span much ground, growing up from beds of soft ambience and blossoming into otherworldly tribal sections with dynamic layers of atmospheric pads and synths. There are some good, catchy melodies interwoven as well. In general, the atmosphere(s) seem to be the focus of this album, and although the tracks contain beats, they are somewhat simple and never overshadow the vivid, ethereal synthwork. Out of the six tracks, the fourth one resonates the most with me, and if I had to recommend one track to preview from this album it would be this one. The album closer is a dark and claustrophobic ambient piece, similar in construction to the second track, but quite a bit more brooding. It works well as an outro for the album.
Though too short, this is a great collaboration as a whole, with top-notch production and sound design. It would have been perfect if they had shortened the intro to about three minutes and added two more tracks. As it stands, it feels like an extended EP but I guess that’s how collaborations go. Definitely a must for fans of either act; it’s not a typical Ant-Zen release, but if you like the more downtempo stuff they release (Zero Degree, T’zolkin) then definitely give this a listen.
— Dan Barrett