Envenomist, "Bleeding Out"
Sunday, 19 February 2017
David Reed's newest album as Envenomist may be a collection of six songs, but the presentation and consistency between them seems more akin to a long from composition broken into distinct pieces. His bleak analog synthesizer works have been notable as a recent member of Bloodyminded, and as part of the trio Nightmares with Mark Solotroff and Jonathan Canady, but here he is in sole control. Perhaps due to it being a fully solo excursion or his compositional intent, the arrangement is sparse but strong, and the final product is a bleak synthesizer creep that hints at film score but is an entity entirely unto itself.
Dystopian film score is almost too easy of a reference to use, but it does fit the sound of Bleeding Out exceptionally well. A distinctly vintage tinge given the synths he mans is present, but it never takes on that 1970s style cliché sound. Nor is it ever too bombastic or dramatic. Rather than being riddled with abrupt bursts or shocking moments, the sound seethes, always a bit below the surface but clearly conveying menace. In that way it is almost too subtle to be a soundtrack work, but ends up standing on its own.
The opening moments of "Mirrors" set the stage well: a tinny synth first appears from the darkness, slowly surging in volume and taking on more and more force. Reed adds additional layers of electronics to build tension, but drifts out of control in order for Reed to maintain the menacing edge. “Equinox” is similarly structured, building from a thin metallic synth noise and richer drone. It is comparably more impressive and has a clearly sinister quality to it, but one that is captivating rather than off-putting.
Reed may keep "Shockwave" an overall more skeletal structure, but he expands greatly from its grinding keyboard foundation. There is a sense of lurk throughout, as synth strings give a tension-building edge to the creepy space he creates. His small electronic accents and icy buzzing keep it from being dull dark ambient bleakness. A heavy sense of synthetic strings comes through on "Two Kings" as well, with the production giving an overall more organic sound to the electronics, which makes for an even darker proposition. Here Reed sticks to the middle and higher register sounds, and the complex layering generates tension perfectly.
Both of the side-ending pieces are more focused on low end sounds, however. A bassy lurch drives the overall hushed "Kraken Mare," staying just far enough in the distance to not overwhelm, but also to keep the tension there and not relenting. Shimmering passages and frigid moments pass through like hints of light in an otherwise overwhelming abyss. "The Thaw" is a fitting conclusion to the album both in sound and title. Again Reed keeps the low end throbbing, but the mix more open. The buzzing synth becomes the focus at times, but instead he closes the album on a surprisingly quiet note.
For most of Bleeding Out, David Reed keeps to the same primary synthesizers and largely similar patches on them, giving a clear consistency from one piece to the next. As a nod to his ability as a composer and performer, however, never do the songs too easily run together or sound too similar to one another. Instead the similarity mostly serves to unite the pieces, coming across more like a lengthy single work that captures a variety of sinister moods. That singular consistency serves to make Bleeding Out a continually fascinating album of building tension that never relents, and it is all the stronger for that fact.