Review of Sublunar [12k1072]

Tiny Mix Tapes (US)

While conducting experiments to measure extrasolar radio waves in the 1960s, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson became increasingly discouraged by an interminable fuzz that blotted their recordings. Their frustration lasted until the Spring of 1964, when the inquisitive pair contacted Robert H. Dicke and his research team at Princeton University, who were quickly able to provide an explanation as to where the hiss was coming from. The problem, it transpired, was a remarkable one: Penzias and Wilson had accidentally discovered the edge of the universe.

That cosmological brink, the very boundary of metagalactic space, was conveyed through spectral density as “noise temperature” — frayed particles of radiation left dancing and flailing from subatomic rapid expansion. These minuscule flecks of space dust are symbolic in the forms that resonate on Sublunar, animated and relentless in their conforming to audio fragments, traces of which are replicated and spread generously across the duration of Kane Ikin’s debut betwixt choral spirals, cast metal chimes, and disintegrating spectographic keys.

Interests in environmental field recordings and atmospherics were abundant on Contrail, which saw this Melbourne-based artist taking his first steps as a solo musician. His tendency to experiment with reel-to-reel tape recordings and abrading drone sequences are expanded upon throughout Sublunar, which pulsates angular and refined prisms of sound, coiling and humming to the pace of their own decay. Like Penzias and Wilson, Ikin is investigating curious crepitations and is on the verge of something celestial.

The apparent mood is brooding and somber from the outset, where “Europa” festoons alto chorus with disfigured, distant house beats over layers of crumbling static. It is a crisp and welcoming initiation to the album, which introduces an obsidian palette that remains consistent but confined throughout. With appellations considered, such dispositions pose regrettable insignificance as opposed to desolate melancholia, an awareness of uncontrollable tumbling in Heliocentric orbit, but the aesthetic focus refrains from motifs that engulf or dominate: an enthusiasm for the microscopic and the miniature is channeled through Sublunar while simultaneously contemplating the gargantuan and the monumental.

Analog consoles and phonographic surface patterns lie at the core of this intricate, isolated body of work. Ikin amplifies his infatuation with warped vinyl spirals and polyrhythmophonic drum machine arrangements, whose presence here remains subtle yet distinctive. Rhythms are carved through seeping waves, loops, and scratches that blend and marinate in tubular peal and the tintinnabulation of ancient jewelry boxes. These humble and inviting combinations are well crafted, but somewhat lacking in the heightened ambition and grandeur alluded to in their titles.

Absence of control and themes of distance are frequently returned to, not only in the earthly wind chime chance of “Oberon,” but also in both the patient rustling on “Sleep Spindle” and the bellowing haunted bass of “Hyperion.” The compiled consequence of these models, drenched in impulse response, is one of great beauty, but with a hesitance to explore murkier depths. As Penzias and Wilson were disenchanted by their perplexing hiss, Ikin delicately wraps his music up in it, beholding the crevasse of infinite possibility.

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