Category: Electronic / Experimental / Ambient
Album: The Mouse Shadow
Blurb: A sonic journey through the sprawling universe of one of science fiction literature’s most iconic series as much as through the ancient corners of our own familiar world.
Steven Archer is a man whose heart and mind are simply filled to the brim with creative energies – he’s an author, a painter, and a musician renowned for his work in darkwave/rock band Ego Likeness, with Hopeful Machines being another outlet for his more experimental musical leanings. With Stoneburner, he devotes those energies fully toward his love for the universe of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, with The Mouse Shadow being the third album under the moniker. As on the previous Stoneburner outings, this album offers up an atmospheric interpretation of Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece, creating a soundtrack not necessarily for the events depicted in the books as much as for the emotive and illusory space that occupies the reader’s mind. “Lisan al Gaib” begins with a dim haze of pads that build to an intensely rhythmic track that pulsates with steely electronics, ethnic vocal stylings, and percussive bombast that aims as much for the dance floor as it does for the desert plains of the planet Arrakis. The rhythms continue as a rather strident and striking melodic refrain amid mechanical scrapes and swirling vocal harmonies hint at the complex range of emotions experienced by a character in the midst of identity crisis. With tracks like “The Age of Pretenders” and “The Golden Path,” though the tempos remain brisk, the overall ambience seems to have risen in prominence, making the percussion almost an afterthought in the listener’s mind as glitchy and densely layered electronics and vocal effects bring to mind belly dancers in a celebratory trance. Conversely, “The Liberation of IX” takes on a more celestial and introspective stance, the sustained and intertwining expanses of shimmering pads and monotonic melodies carrying the listener into the depths of darker corners of the universe where new machines prevail, the simple but punchy bass line proving one of the album’s most memorable moments, as if to give voice to the ambitions of Ixian technological pursuits. Similarly, “The Inherent Evil of Face Dancers” lives up to its title, the forceful drumbeats dominating amid a throng of groaning electronic throbs and wisps of string passages; it is not an overt evil, but a subliminal and almost conspiratorial one, carried through insistent repetitions that insinuate ulterior motives and hidden agendas appropriate to Tleilaxu xenophobia. Closing out The Mouse Shadow is “Miraculous Voices,” its slow myriad of breakbeats and alternating melodies of voices and orchestral pads – complete with skittering electronic and traces of strings and even brass instruments – creating a thematic touchstone that encompasses all of the album’s epic qualities; if ever a track could stand in as Steven Archer’s theme for the entirety of Herbert’s Dune series, this could certainly be a contender. As did Songs in the Key of Arrakis and The No Chamber, The Mouse Shadow transports the listener 10,000 years into Frank Herbert’s mystically fascinating universe where the boundaries between humanity’s evolution of spirit and technology are inextricably broken down, with the desert planet of Arrakis as its veritable center. The album marvelously combines Steven Archer’s mastery of electronic production with the organic elements that are so intrinsic to their ethnic evocations. Fear not, for a lack of familiarity with Dune would not diminish the enjoyment of the sonic experience Stoneburner offers – the musical and rhythmic modes on display throughout The Mouse Shadow are as indicative of the ancient corners of our world as they are of the furthest reaches of a sprawling universe, making this a journey to be heard and felt time and again.
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)