Category: Ambient / Experimental / Tribal
Album: Sphere from the Woods
Blurb: Organic ambience and ceremonious rhythms facilitate the path to enlightenment in one of Empusae’s most introspective works to date.
Having an affinity for tribal rhythms and ritualistic ambience has served post-industrial visionary Nicolas Van Meirhaeghe – who also goes by the alias of Sal-Ocin – rather well for over a decade. Whether bringing ancient, modern, or futuristic soundscapes to life in the progressive outlets of This Morn’ Omina, Tzolk’in, or his very own Empusae, there’s no question that Van Meirhaeghe wields an enviable penchant to delve into uncharted aural depths to keep his audience intrigued. Still harnessing the spirit of that notion, Empusae’s latest artistic evolution traverses through a tale filled with lushly organic dreamscapes that aim to enlighten in its wake.
Ethnic percussion, warm electronics, unorthodox acoustic instruments, and field recordings fill the unsullied world that is Sphere from the Woods. Hints of 2008’s The Hatred of Trees are present, but fans more accustomed to harsher works like Funestus or Error 404: Metaphorical Loss will quickly notice a polarizing shift as the meditative properties of rain, string arrangements, and cavernous drone start the journey in “Ritual for Saille.” While the monstrous 15 minute “Sphère des Bois” and lulling “Into the Abyss of the Forest” can be dreary at times, the disparate fusing of neo-folk, wood textures, and rare instruments affirm that Empusae is not content imprisoning his sonic palette anytime soon. Tribal percussion becomes more rampant in the latter half with tracks like “Cadence Chamanique” and “Dirge” weaving elements from primitive war horns to guitar distortion before slipping into darkness with ritualistic ambience and demonic litanies in the surprising “Rutsu.”
Despite the repetition that is expected to come along with tranquil ambience and rhythm-based music, Van Meirhaeghe’s complex and ceremonious dreamscapes are further set apart from the rest by simply how he approaches the album, illustrating that some electronic artists still appreciate what the natural world has to offer. Additionally, the peculiar field recordings and instruments like psalteries will have even the most seasoned experimental enthusiasts retreading to decipher their origin. With that said, fans of Empusae’s more acerbic offerings may initially be deterred, but given a much needed listen, many will find that Sphere from the Woods is a solid, enticing, and above all mature addition to an already diverse catalog that further sees this Belgian artist admirably favoring innovation over accessibility.
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Zachary Locke (ZLocke)