Jun 2017 05

Dissonance - VoidDissonance
Category: Electro / Ambient / Darkwave
Album: Void
Stars: 4
Blurb: Full of lyrical poignancy as tales of desperation and heartache are woven amid atmospherically rhythmic and celestial electronics, this long awaited third album signals a triumphant comeback for Dissonance.


 

Cat Hall is not a name many are familiar with, which is quite a shame because through her work in electronic duos like Dissonance and Chlorophyll, she has proven to be an immense talent. Crafting lush layers of harmonious vocals that run a broad range of emotions and instrumental atmosphere, her earnest and heartfelt lyrics outline stories of loss, perseverance, and bitter triumph. 2001 saw the release of Dissonance’s second album, Reincarnate, on Nilaihah Records, taking the more scathing and aggressive approach of the self-titled debut toward a more ambient, groovier area that hinted at greater things yet to come. Now after 16 years, with the departure of programmer/keyboardist David Sebrind, Hall has revived Dissonance with Justin Burning to produce the third Dissonance album, Void, serving as an entryway into a new chapter of the band’s creative evolution.

One might expect that after so many years, a band would reach back to its earlier sound and style to recapture the initial fire that drove the music. Void, on the other hand, seems to pick up right where Reincarnate left off, with only hints of the earlier aggression hidden within the miasma of sparse beats and cloudy electronic hazes, with Hall’s voice as the guiding light. The lyrics throughout Void are as the title would suggest as Hall fervently expresses years of frustration and heartache in each word, her resonant harmonies as much an instrument as any of Burning’s celestial synthesizer tones, which at times bear the ambient tonality one would expect from the current trend of ‘80s retrofuturism. For instance, the album’s closing track “Venice” begins with Hall singing atop a stark piano arpeggio, gradually building in intensity as her voice and the swells of pads like a new wave rendition of a classical aria, while “Gravity Well” pulsates with shimmering, spacious leads and arpeggios atop a steely, almost danceable beat, Hall’s vocal interplay with the energetic synths making for one of the album’s high points. Similarly, “Begin to Be” begins Void with Hall’s voice whispering hauntingly as an anthemic melody and muted breakbeat rises from the audient void, the drumbeats that enter during the song’s climax adding to the tension and anticipation as the listener hovers above the stratosphere, as if trapped in a la grange point between two opposing forces – one pulling downward to planetary collision, the other into the depths of interstellar nothingness. “Get Through” presents an equally cosmic atmosphere with a light electronic beat and symphonic pads, Hall’s steady refrains of “I’ll reach you” and “Can you hear me calling you” beginning boldly but with each repetition reveals the inherent desperation and despair behind the lyrics, the stabs of distortion that appear in the coda ending the song on a decrepit but darkly satisfying note. While this writer has never been fond of and is now especially sick-to-death of Joy Division covers, credit must be given to Burning and Hall for creating a version of “New Dawn Fades” that with its chilled trip-hop beats and rich harmonic textures managed to escape my notice on first listen, putting their own faithful yet fresh spin on the song.

Though David Sebrind’s energetic and entrancing style might be missed by those who enjoyed the previous albums, Burning brings to Dissonance a dramatic flair that is no less enticing for its emphasis on mood and tonality. Like Sebrind, his sounds often straddle the line between pure electronic synthesis and organic resonance, sometimes creating the sense of a guitar without actually utilizing one; in short, his production skills add marvelously to this new phase of Dissonance, creating a wonderful interplay with Hall’s one woman chorale. The lyrics are full of poignancy and power, relatable to many in the throes of emotional turmoil, set to the backdrop of music that is soothing and intoxicating, and even a little bit harrowing, making Void a marvelous comeback for a band that simply has too much to offer to wallow in obscurity. Welcome back, Dissonance!
 
Track list:

  1. Begin to Be
  2. Stranglehold
  3. Get Through
  4. Gravity Well
  5. Never Will I Ever
  6. So Very Low (Letting Go)
  7. New Dawn Fades
  8. Seismicity
  9. Venice

 
Dissonance/Cat Hall
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Hakatak International
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Purchase at:
Bandcamp
 
2017-07-09
 
Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

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