An Ambient album? Few can make metal sing as sweetly as Alan Bloor.
There are not too many musicians out there who can make metal sing as sweetly as Alan Bloor. As a tool for industrial collages, steel has usually been a synonym for strength, razorsharp edges and brute stupor, but in the world of his Pholde project, it is the basis for wonderful dreams. "Aperture of the Internal Surface" is a typical release in that sense – and yet it also demonstrates how open and flexible Bloor’s concept is.
Compared to his release on Gears of Sand, "That which tends to dissuade", "Aperture..." is without doubt more confrontational. With only two pieces, one of them measuring a full half hour, it has both thematic compactness and a daunting spaceousness to it, while the sound is more direct and concrete – as if the microphone had been closer to the machinery this time around. Bloor also plays his tools with more force here. He releases a concentrated beam of furious strokes and raw rippings, lending a powerful thrust to the arrangements, which no longer float gently and without an obvious aim but suddenly appear eager to get to the finish line – but the composer won’t let them.
The first thing you think to yourself is: this is not an Ambient album. And indeed, on the surface of things, the work seems more focussed on sound and technique than on mood. Pholde takes his audience on a ride through complexes of timbres, filled with massive bass resonance fields and fine, glassy harmonics. Sustained rumblings mix with tingling and rattling noises, the emissions of a pile of shards trickle through gong-like knocks. The source material for these pieces appears carefully selected and consciously restricted, the same effects turning up again and again, but in different contexts and with varying functionalities. One would suspect that a huge sound like this one must have been inflated by luscious use of reverb, but that emerges as a falacy in the closing seconds of the title track, which sees the last note disappear into silence far quicker than expected.
Which means that the self-built instruments span a space of their own, created by a man whose music depends just as much on the spontaneous impulse in the moment of creation (all Pholde albums are essentially live performances) as on an exact, almost technical and scientific knowledge of his materials.
In many occasions, the music unfolds through rhythmic repetitions and variations, but on just as many others, it follows its own set of rules. The buildup of the tracks is certainly very plastic and marked by contrasted parts and subtle segues. "Aperture..." never sounds like someone randomly banging a couple of cans, but like a carefully constructed composition of manifold meaning. Observing Alan Bloor penetrate the nerve of something both frighening and familar is a highly meditative process – an ambient album after all.