Friday, 27 September 2019

Kryptogen Rundfunk - Tales from the Mirrored Spaces

Album: Tales from the Mirrored Spaces
Artist: Kryptogen Rundfunk
Label: Zoharum
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Arquish
     2.      Shapeshifter’s Lair
     3.      Attention Selector
     4.      Astrochemical Rays
     5.      The Ritual of Dissolution
     6.      Shores of Insanity
     7.      Transverter Waltz
     8.      Freon Flux
     9.      Palus Somni

Kryptogen Rundfunk is Artyom Ostapchuk, who is also the mastermind behind Russian labels Zhelezobeton and Muzyka VOLN, both well-known for releasing a wide selection of underground experimental genres, all wrapped in beautiful artwork. However, this time it’s his turn to flex his musical muscles in the form of his third full-length album, released on Poland’s Zoharum label, who also specialise in creating miniature works of art in CD form. I’ve encountered KR’s music on various platforms for quite a while, but this is the first full-length Kryptogen Rundfunk release I’ve actually heard. And it’s a beauty, right from that wonderful image on the cover by St. Petersburg graphic artist Kiril Rozhov and on into the lush dronescapes and noise ambient etched into the discs within.

The selection starts with the hypnotic and mesmerising machine oscillation of ‘Arquish’, a sound that bores into one’s head and goes in deep, until insect-like scrapes and chitters intersect along with more solid drone renderings. It’s a monolithic slab of sound, a hugely imposing structure that appears to grow out of nowhere until it fills the entire vision. Imagine somewhere empty, a vast plain of barren waste inhabited by lowly creatures: looking to the horizon a shape can be discerned, its silhouette slowly becoming larger, firmer, and more substantive. By the time it’s reached overhead the arch of heaven has been blotted out, leaving the world in darkness and turmoil. Stars come out, but these are not the familiar stars of the Milky Way; instead, these are the thousands upon thousands of winking lights of a vast vessel’s underside, and for some this may be their last sight of this spectacle and the world they live in. It is overwhelming in both the physical and metaphorical senses, a terrifying disruption of normality.

‘Shapeshifter’s Lair’ comes next, a much quieter affair, a soft drone floating in upon a gentle breeze, which eventually transforms into something more substantial and insistent, and it continues to constantly change shape and form throughout its running time. It feels like liquid, a mercury-like entity constantly moulding its own molecules and cells to form whatever configuration it determines is best for the moment. ‘Attention Selector’ likewise begins quietly, a gentle humming that slowly blooms and unfurls as time goes on, joined by a shimmering note that’s eventually taken over by a buzzing bass beat that sounds like an alarm warning of something dark approaching. Perhaps it’s the mechanical things whose rumblings and clankings overlay that alarm sound, trundling through the streets of a monstrous metropolis with, perhaps, the aim of conquering it. Whatever these things are pass onwards, only to leave behind a soulless emptiness and a haunting reminder of what happens when such metropolises are denuded of life, as surely this city has now become.

Another oscillating rhythm opens the next track, ‘Astrochemical Rays’, but this time it’s in the very low bass register. Almost untraceable rays and emissions from deep space assail us, rearranging cells and DNA, mutating and modifying, perhaps enhancing, or maybe undermining. At the very least, the body is metamorphosing into something alien and incomprehensible. ‘Ritual of Dissolution’ seems to be the logical and necessary next step after the previous piece, a means of removing whatever disruption the mutations consequent to the astrochemical ray caused to the gene pool. And it is indeed a ritual, a sacred exercise in purifying the taint: shimmering gong-like tones, reminiscent of singing bowls, crash in and out like waves upon rocky shores, incrementally taking away the stain every time a wave recedes. The track evolves cumulatively and infinitesimally, until familiar form reasserts itself. However, according to ‘Shores of Insanity’, not every ritual is a success – sometimes the purification is unable to remove the taint completely, which eventually lead to the breakdown of the mind and a tumble into madness. It’s a subtle and menacing type of madness, twisting and curling, eating into the fleshy parts of the brain and rotting them from the inside. Once it takes hold it overwhelms quickly, numbing one into a false euphoric state of being, until the soul and consciousness depart altogether.

‘Transverter Waltz’ introduces an element of a beat, a slow stalking mechanical contraption born of malice and pollution, poisoning everything it touches and breathes upon. A miasmic cloud accompanies its progress, clinging like a cloud of flies around a corpse. It screeches its disdain and animus, sneering at our cowering forms, and relishing its cruelty and barbarity in its own simplistic and pre-programmed way. ‘Freon Flux’ begins with liquid and natural sound effects, a somehow calming ambience, which mutates into something a lot less salubrious. A deep bass drone floats just beneath its surface, above which hovers metallic scraping that, whilst superficially appearing to be harmless, nevertheless carries with it a hint of something quite unhealthy. Insects chitter away, eating at who knows what and breaking down waste, which morphs into what sound like flames that eventually change into teeth-grating squeaks. There’s nothing specific to hang your fears on, just a feeling that this isn’t as idyllic as it sounds.

The title of the final track, ‘Palus Somni’, means Shallow Sleep in Latin, and judging by the drilling noises on here, it’s a wonder that sleep is achievable at all. It’s that annoying little persistent noise that’s heard just on the edge of nodding off, which somehow seeps into the subconscious and changes the flavour and course of a dream. Deeper, more sinister, drones then fly in, driving the fantasy into even darker and blacker territory. This is a dronescape inhabited by creatures that could never exist in the real world, only in the darkest, most private recesses of the mind. It’s a phantasmagorical parade of a person’s worst nightmares and deepest desires, dressed in the surreal finery that only a dream could furnish. Unnamed things hoot and howl, rustle in undergrowth, scratch through wood and soil, and skitter across rock. Eventually the dream fades, but its effects will last beyond sleep and into waking life.

This whole package is gorgeous both inside and out, from the cover artwork to the lush noise/dark ambient contained on the disc. This is a musician adept at using mostly lower register sounds to paint texturally-complex and nuanced pictures, full of startling imagery, and deep concepts. It’ll be one of those albums I will return to again and again, simply because of the precise nature of the compositions and their inner effects. More than that, Ostapchuk knows exactly how to manipulate and use sound, and what sounds to use. This is precisely what an artist does – creates worlds for readers/viewers/listeners to elicit the exact response envisioned with the right techniques and effects. I’ll be interested in what Kryptogen Rundfunk will grace us with in the future.

Available in two editions: a single CD in a limited edition of 50, and a limited 2CD set in an edition of 100, which includes a ‘Live in Gdansk’ disc. Order from here:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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