RecFrag - Burning Rime
Often times, music that traffics in the aural palette of noise neglects to include any sonic counterpoint to the mechanistic grind and crunch that forms the baseline of its sound. This is understandable, as music that makes use of noise is, historically, a study in extremes — what can we make out of purely noise? How far can we take it? What can noise, as a material in-of-itself do?
RecFrag is a new project hailing from Minsk that looks at things in a different way than pure 'noise' artists generally would: what happens when we counterpoint bursts and stabs of noise with sounds from other areas? It explores this throughout the course of 10 tracks (4 of them remixes), creating a beautiful cinematic journey in the process. While it may be self-labeled as 'Noise' or 'IDM', perhaps that is simply because there is no good genre to describe it, as the project fluidly mixes the synth drones of ambient with noisy drums and a controlled chaos reminiscent of some post-rock bands.
The first few seconds of album-opener X-Otrix leaves some room for doubt, beginning with a fairly simple and standard synth chord that feels a bit canned. The track quickly opens up, however, as this simple element is overlaid with details and layers: overlapping chords, a stuttering, bit-crushed drum pattern. Around the 1:30 mark, a violin melody comes into the mix, surprising us with its effective counterpoint to the bursts of noise and static that make up the driving drum beat, but despite the beauty in contrasts here, RecFrag does not rely on it too much. Like a beautiful building crumbling down (in a beautiful way), they quickly fall to the back of the mix as the drums grow more frenetic, before the whole track submerges into an ocean of crunchy digital ambience, the rubble after the collapse, only to re-emerge a while later, back into orchestral beauty mixed with digital texture.
It's nice to know, however, that RecFrag is not keen on relying on the handy trick of sweeping violin chords + stuttering, bit-crushed drums. Untitled (feat. Paul Ignatovich) builds with an almost post-rock tension, a river of noise giving way to a tense, frenetic guitar line, moving in and out of tension, building and releasing it with a lightness of touch. There are echoes here of the better days of 65 Days of Static, the track racing you towards a brick wall, then backing off, then repeating this bait and switch until late in the track, when things finally crash and explode into a wall of controlled noise.
Emulsion explores counterpointing the harsh treble range of the noise-constructed drum kit that RecFrag uses consistently with deep, sub-bass synth rumbles. There is a lightness of touch here, a subtlety of well-executed production that feels well done and considered. Not content to rely on one sonic palette for too long, the track continues to vary in tension, intensity, pattern, and sound, even including a brief cameo from what sounds like a harpsichord (it somehow works). White Sparks explores similar territory, a lulling, peaceful synth pad serving as the ground for an out-of-control, staggering drum rhythm to find its way in and out of cohesion. Unfortunately, this track doesn't benefit from the same variety of sound as Emulsion. Grains of Sleep is a lovely, cinematic closer before the remix section of the album begins, although it leans a bit on the same chord and drum pattern repetition for slightly too long before opening up into a more layered experience.
The remixes are mostly very solid, almost all of them taking their respective track in a harder and even more densely produced direction. In some places, the remixes eclipse the originals, and in others, the originals eclipse the remixes. Regardless, the remixes do feel like they add to the album and provide an adequate coda, rather than feeling lazy or tacked-on, a feat that deserves some amount of kudos.
RecFrag shows a great amount of promise. A fantastic attention to production and detail often shows through, and the counterpoint between harsh, noisy drums and symphonic melody will appeal to many. Unfortunately at times, the reliance on simple chords and a relatively repetitious sense of track construction (start soft, build, layer drums, drums get more intense, fade out) and a lack of density and detail in some passages makes the album feel a bit like a video game soundtrack at some points, but I am unsure of if that's even a bad thing. If anything, it's the soundtrack to a video game I feel like I'd play, some dense, dark, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk wasteland.May 06 2015
Writer and contributor on Brutal Resonance
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