The idea for Shade Themes From Kairos started when Belgian filmmaker Alexis Destoop asked Ambarchi and O’Malley to provide the score for his short film Kairos. The two musicians travelled to Belgium and started working on the score for the film, and after they finished with the soundtrack they returned to Randall Dunn’s Aleph Studios in Seattle to further explore their concepts. It is hard not to compare this album to Nazoranai’s earlier release, where Ambarchi and O’Malley, teamed up with Keiji Haino in order to record a free rock improvised full-length.Shade Themes From Kairos might lack a bit of that free rock spirit, but it makes up with more dense ambiances and a much darker approach.
What is quite unusual here is the sort of relaxed and laid back approach that the trio is undertaking with their music. From the opening track their combination of that cool sound alongside their dark and dim mindset makes you feel quite on edge as their twisted ideas and notions evolve. This method of the trio continues to work great in other instances such as “Temporal, Eponymous” which at the same time is one of the darkest moments of the album, and in a more abstract jazz way in “Sometimes.” Especially in that song Ambarchi, O’Malley and Dunn shift their focus from their usual style a touch, providing a more emotional and moving song. With the striking vocals, courtesy of Ai Aso, the trio makes things a bit more interesting. Actually I thought that “Sometimes” was quite close in terms of style to some of the songs from the Sunn O))) & Boris collaboration album, Altar, in the likes of “The Sinking Bell (Blue Sheep).”
The band’s approach in this release is abstract but it always manages to remain fluid and constantly moving. The trio is able to build up circling melodies around which their music always grows. So much is apparent in the opening song, and in a more mesmerizing manner in “Temporal, Eponymous.” A more dreamlike and lucid approach is of course appropriate in instances such as “Sometimes” while a minimalistic style is perfect in tracks such as “Circumstances of Faith.” The use of percussion further evokes that meditative aspect of the music. The synth percussion gives a more surreal and unearthly vibe in “The Space Between,” with the whole track reaching another level when the actual drums take over. The feeling of the drumming remains always very fluid and natural, managing to create more solid grooves sometimes, for example in “Temporal, Eponymous,” while at other instances it takes a turn for a more abstract and tribal-esque approach, as is the case with “Circumstances of Faith.”
The trio has used an impressive array of instruments in this instance, including basic stuff such as guitars, drums and analog synths but also crotales, Sruti box and a mellotron. Especially the mellotron sound makes things really intriguing at some instances, as is the case with “Temporal, Eponymous.” And those synths under the music really fill out the space nicely, something quite apparent in the opening track of the album, and in a more grand manner in the ending of “Circumstances of Faith.”
When it comes to their guitar work, these guys really rise to the occasion. Their manipulation of the instrument to achieve their goals is nothing short of insane, something that shows by how versatile their playing is. Their approach at certain points can be more abstract enhancing their strange auras, but the themes are continuously evolving through improvisation. Dissonant parts arise along with a more paranoid way of playing, with solo parts that can be minimal and mental at the same time. Even in “Sometimes” where the guitar does not play a prominent role, the trio makes sure that it still adds to the overall vibe when something like that is needed. And in the closing track “Ebony Pagoda” they go as close to Sunn O))) as they possibly can. The guitars take over completely creating an imposing sound, with the trio pushing and pushing the sound to the more extreme possible boundary. The result is a huge sound with a minimal approach that makes for a dark and torturous listen.
Shade Themes From Kairos is a top quality album of dark experimental music. Ambarchi, O’Malley and Dunn are musicians that have been active on the experimental music field for a long time and they rarely disappoint. This though is one of their best moments and I hope they find the time to put a follow up to this release.
7.9 / 10
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