CD-R, self-released, 2004
Colorado based Ontagon (aka James Zdrowski) has been relatively unknown to most outside the US breakcore scene, despite the five previous releases and numerous live performances. “Shapes In Sound” is a full-fledged experimental breakcore album, focusing on textures and ambience created with the help of simple and crisp synths that flow and merge perfectly with the sharp minimalist beats. The end product is complex and enchanting, soundscapes that range from dark and energetic to relaxing, almost soothing moments.
The presence of lyrics in one track, “Spiders”, turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as the gritty and whispered vocals are put to great effect, greatly enhancing the atmosphere conveyed and leaving you wondering why this is the only track with vocals.
The programming, while deep, is remarkably well done, exhibiting a proficiency, both artistic and technical that really sets Ontagon apart from many independent experimental acts that tend to overdo the “experimental” bit, thus becoming inaccessible to most audiences. Unlike those, James Zdrowski has compiled a record that is shockfull of soul and creative ideas, yet easy for nearly everyone to listen to, a real feat worth of praise.
Finally, the overall sound and feel of the release sometimes resembles that of acts like Larvae or Beefcake, only with a less aggressive and experimental tint, more suited to chilling out and nodding to it than say, dancing or having a party. And while speaking of sound, I’d like to point out that the mastering and sound quality of the album are rather stunning for an independent release. Congrats to the people in Belasia studios for a job very well done.
With Ontagon’s next major release scheduled for 2005, “Shapes In Sound” could very well be the leverage he needs to reach out to the wider audiences his music rightfully deserves. I for one, know that I’ll be looking forward to another great release.
— George Mouratidis