Various Artists
Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones/Witxes - Split

Denovali (2014) Spyros Stasis

Various Artists – Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones/Witxes - Split cover artwork
Various Artists – Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones/Witxes - Split — Denovali, 2014

When it comes to minimalistic ambient and dark jazz it does not get much better than these. Two great acts from France coexist within this split album. The Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones can be considered a legendary act, with a résumé of high quality albums such as their debut, Parole De Navare and their sophomore release Metamanoir. Witxes on the other hand came in the spotlight after the self-released Scrawls #1, with Sorcery/Geography. The follow up album A Fabric of Beliefs which came out last year made the difference, causing quite a few heads to turn towards Witxes. What is the interesting part in this split then? Dale Cooper “covers” Witxes and Witxes “covers” Dale Cooper in a sense. This means that each band does not simply offer a different version of the track but are using the existing song as a basis for a new track. Dale Cooper uses “The Apparel” from Witxes’ latest album, while Witxes uses “Nourrain Quinquet” from Quatorze Pieces de Menaces.

The stage is set when the gong kicks things off in "La Strategie St Frusquin". Before you can absorb its impact the saxophone comes in with its deep sound making everything melt away with its passing note. And it is not just in the start of the song, but every time the saxophone comes in it sucks the air out of the room. Sometimes it undertakes a more emotional path, giving some melodic phrases that cannot be ignored, while at other times it achieves a majestic peak. But it is especially impressive when it goes completely insane, improvising faster and creating magic. Still there is a touch of minimalism when that is appropriate for the track, giving that more laid back feeling to the song.

That is basically the bread and butter of the Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones; their soothing jazz mentality with that dark smooth vibe. For the twenty minutes of this track, through its various twists and turns it always retains that aura, leading to the darkest corners of the mind. And that is where the ambiance comes in, and it really goes hand in hand with the jazz vibe. The ability of the band to craft soundscapes and manipulate them to work in their favor is truly mesmerizing. There are moments where the atmosphere feels like it is going to swallow up everything as the trippy effects and big drones come in. The ambiance changes from majestic and grand to unearthly and uncomfortable as "La Strategie St Frusquin" progresses. Particularly when the band decides to take on a more minimalistic approach things start to get even more intriguing, especially when this is done in conjunction with some sonic experimentation.

The percussion in this track is also of equal importance, setting an almost ritualistic tone when the track is introduced. Even when synthetic percussion, in the form of heavy synths, is implemented, the result is still brilliant giving an unexpected tone with these subtle explosions of energy. When you throw in the distorted guitars, when that is necessary, the album gets an even deeper level of sonic texture. And when you least expect it, the vocals come in to haunt you. About fifteen minutes in the bassy tone of Mac Erlaine’s voice changes the whole vibe of the track, while their presence on top of minimal instrumentation showcases the voice perfectly.

Witxes on the other hand come in with what probably is their most synthetic work to date. “Pisces Analogue” is explored with an array of synth sounds and effects that will send you off to some really weird trips. From the very first second, the piercing synths seem to want to take your head off. That is just for that split instant though, before Witxes retreat to their dark minimalistic sound.

Witxes crafts the space in a very intriguing manner with their implementation of synths and abnormal use of melodies. Their circling patterns and repetitive concepts builds up the song and its progression. A couple of sudden synths drops have an explosive effect on the music and really feel like a slap in the face. But what is interesting is how they follow up on those drops, sometimes with an array of effects creating a towering sound that is overflowing from its minimalistic predecessors, while at other times they retreat to an almost awkward silence before letting the synths loose once again.

The use of percussive synths halfway in the song fills the atmosphere quite nicely, giving a dark and psychedelic vibe to the track. Do not let the peaceful tone fool you, the synths will sneak up on you again and take you completely unaware, before you know what happened, your mind will be blown. What stands out even more is a sudden change of pace within the track near the end, with Witxes completing the switch in a very fluid manner, giving more movement and substance to their music as they prepare for the end. The cathartic tone of the part soon changes to an almost majestic moment filled with emotions and agony before it cuts off as unpredictably as everything else in this album, with Witxes' imaginary grin mocks us.

These two bands are really on top of their game in this split release, showcasing their creativity even when that is based on pre-existing work. The dark jazz of the Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones alongside the minimalistic ambient music of Witxes will give you forty minutes of high quality experimental music.

Various Artists – Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones/Witxes - Split cover artwork
Various Artists – Dale Cooper Quartet & The Dictaphones/Witxes - Split — Denovali, 2014

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