Baldruin, the brainchild of Johannes Schebler, is wondering through the psychic domains of ambient music. Even though the project is relatively new, Schebler has put out a number of releases, various split albums and cassettes. However, Portal is the debut of Baldruin in the vinyl domain, released through Wounded Knife Records. What attracts Baldruin to the ambient domain so much is their topographical outlook in the construction of atmospheres, as well as their push towards moments of cinematic quality, bounding together feverish auras and mystical themes.
The heavy veil of the ambiance lures you into Portal from the beginning of the album, as the reverse reverb in “Im Verlies” sets the beat while the noisy synths on the background craft with precision the foundation of the track. The inclusion of samples aids in getting the message across, with chain-like sounds echoing through the dark corridors of Portal. There are moments when the approach takes on a more mysterious tone, as is the case with “Night Vision,” mainly originating from its bass line, and “Wustensturm,” granting the tracks a dark but at the same time cool aura. However, at other times Baldruin applies more pressure, as is the case with the increased tension in “Splitterbruch.” Still, their vision is more varied, and that is further revealed with tracks such as “No Escape,” with the expansive synths creating big soundscapes and “Keine Korper, aber Seelen.” Especially with this track, the ethereal element of Baldruin is simulated perfectly through the synths, while the inclusion of whispery vocals sets the tone quite nicely.
However, Schebler is able to travel further into the ambient side of his project and construct moments of cinematic grandeur. “Auf De Lauer” is horrific, with its creeping direction and the unconventional implementation of rhythmic elements as well as the richer background of the track. Then, there are a couple of occasion where the tracks are driven by the percussion, as is the case with “Faulnis,” which reveals a more mystical tone originating from its core. “Durchs” features a moment of similar percussive driven quality, but there are many layers to the track, and all are revealed as it travels from its upbeat moments to bleaker parts filled with melancholy, only to reach its dark ambient end.
In the same context, the three final tracks of the album, “Unter Druck,” “Kalte Zeit” and “Abschied” are revealing the main force of all that is mystical and magickal in the works of Baldruin. The minimalistic quality of “Unter Druck” evolves into an imposing piece, where all light seems to be fading away, as the unearthly and esoteric aspect comes through and the melodic lines addressing to something very primal in the human nature. Baldruin make a move into “Kalte Zeit” with the soundscapes in this instance becoming quite sweeter and more delicate. The track has a mesmerizing effect on the listener, with the beats appearing soothing with their distant sounds. In the final track of the album, Baldruin create a very dense ambiance, as if they are trying to drown you in the process. The magickal essence is present in its most fiery form, with the final minute of the track seeing Schebler voyaging into uncharted territories, giving a push with the tempo and resolving the track with some hectic keys playing.
There are also various other qualities and aspects that are revealed in Portal. An industrial-esque tone seems to be very close by in some key moments of the tracks, such as “Keine Korper, aber Seelen” and “No Escape” for example. However it is the pseudo-industrial approach of “Deus Ex Machina” which grabs your attention, with the rhythm of the track having something inherently mechanical about it. The simplicity by which the melodies of the track are progressing, something that also occurs in “Elektrobahn auf Abwegen,” further enhances that aspect of Baldruin's concept.
The other aspect of Portal that is spread out in their music is the underlying noise element. Even though that does not go full-blown in this instance, it gives a glimpse to the numerous musical layers of Baldruin. “Wustensturm” is an example of the subtlety of this approach, with the noise aspect remaining obscured from the electronic layout. However, the vocals in “No Escape” reveal that noise-driven approach, with their whispery quality being enriched by distortion. Similarly, the background of “Splitterbruch” has quite a noise-like quality, even though it does not become uncontrollable and razor sharp. In the same vein, “Tanz der Elektronen” features that under the surface noise element, originating from the manner in which the synths have been placed and their dissonant outlet. It is also one of the few instances where the noise raises a bit more its ugly head, resulting in some face melting moments.
All in all Portal is a solid album of dark ambient music. The short duration of the tracks helps Baldruin bring forth a more condensed poison, while at the same time managing to hold the attention of the listener. Through this magickal, cinematic dark ambient vision Baldruin do really open portals to darker dimensions with their Bavarian Gothic.
7.4 / 10
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