December 3, 2010

Arkhonia - Ttrails/Traces (2010)

Arkhonia is a solo offshoot from one half of the long-defunct jz-arkh duo, who released two limited edition 7"s in 2001 before capturing the attention of Kompakt and the Pet Shop Boys, both of whom selected the track 'DDRhodes' for compilations (Pop Ambient 2002 and Back To Mine, respectively). Clearly this piece has legs: it also cropped up on a soundtrack to an experimental film and a commercial for the Norwegian Postal Service. An unedited, near twelve-minute original version of the track appears here, and you can certainly hear what the fuss was about. Positioned as the centre-piece of Trails/Traces, 'DDRhodes' gently swells through ruptured electric piano chords and synth-string sounds, going on to embrace watery, field recorded textures in its latter stages. It's a most musical take on all things ambient, eschewing the default settings of drone in favour of something far more structured and, above all, tuneful. Trails/Traces covers nearly a decade's worth of Arkhonia compositions, and this mysterious artist's catalogue proves to be a rich vault. 'GDLadyburn' hints at more nefarious, diabolic sounds with a spread of witchy organ intervals and wonderfully menacing discord, while the album's longest entry, 'BCTrails' takes on a more pensive character, floating through warmed-up waves of static in an alluringly ambiguous fashion. The album is dotted with a number of more concise, miniature compositions that help break up the sequence nicely, the finest of these being the strange, hollowed-out soundscape of 'Events/Non-Events' whose sub-four-minute duration charts considerable sonic depths almost by suggestion, putting reverb and spatial distribution to subtle but effective use. Excellent stuff.

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