[reviews] afe086mcd
the infant cycle / uphold: our past present (now then)

heathen harvest []
webzine, usa, february 2008

Two very different Canadian sound artists are paired together on this double 3" CD-R release from Italy's Another Friendly Edition (Afe) Records. Both use a combination of non-musical sources in alliance with electronic instrumentation to implement their sound collages; however the results couldn't be more startlingly different.

The Infant Cycle is the solo project of Jim DeJong, formerly of Chronic Remorse and Mindsculpture (being replaced in the latter by UPhold's Muffy St. Bernard) and during the course of his musical career he has worked with the likes of Aidan Baker and Dronæment, amongst many others.

Here he has created a 20:22 track of drones, looped scratches, abrasive and organic noises and glitches based around "his own past, present, future and ‘non-existent' releases," organised into a series of distinct movements. Much of it is bordering on the clinical and determinedly noisy, but the hard edges that are there are softened somewhat by the use of reverb and the inclusion of some shimmering tones and natural sounds that renders it almost fuzzy and organic in atmosphere.

It's difficult to pinpoint where exactly on the musical spectrum this particular offering sits, as it seems to inhabit that curious interzone between the artificial and deliberately constructed and the warmth of the organic and naturally evolving. It's a testament to DeJong's manipulatory skills that the normally hard edges between these two opposites have become blurred, even to the point where you're not actually sure where the artificial ends and the natural begins.

UPhold's contributions on the other hand come from the other end of the spectrum. Using a variety of sources such as found sounds, field recordings, voices and metal percussion combined with some appropriately placed lines of synthesiser textures, Muffy St. Bernard creates creepily atmospheric soundscapes that have a wonderfully expansive and cinematic flavour to them.

Indeed they wouldn't sound out of place as a soundtrack to some black and white haunted house movie – there's a distinct sense of restless dread and unseen doom stalking each of the four compositions. Above all, they tell stories of dark and dimly lit corridors in gloomy dusty houses or of being stalked by unseen entities while exploring the basement just as the lights go out.

All the tracks on here are suffused with an eerily expectant atmosphere coupled with a velvety and suffocatory claustrophobia, as if presaging some unforeseen disaster just about to spring itself onto the unfortunate victims. Every piece shares this character of a feeling of disorientation and disequilibrium, but of the four tracks probably the best to emphasise this psychic discomfort is "Shut the Fuck Up, Dmitri"', with its clear bell tone augmented by a deep synthesised bass growl that adds harmonic depth and size to the tone, as well as injecting a very tangible air of menace and malignity, which is sure to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up of their own accord.

Both artists, although their music is vastly different in style and treatment, definitely know how to coax the best out of their respective source material. But even within the necessarily restricted confines of the time allowed on a 3" CD their inventiveness comes sharply to the fore for those who take the time to listen and explore. I recommend that you be one of those who do take that time to explore.