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CD Feature/ Vestigial: "Translucent Communion"

img  Tobias
An early deal with a renowned record company and expectations of impending greatness weighing heavy on his shoulders – the question was never just what Vestigial’s first full-length would sound like but in which way it might present us with a new sound and a fresh approach to Dark Ambient, an entirely revolutionised project even.”It is going to be a completely different matter than the recordings I did before “ Vestigial’s Peppe revealed to us in a short interview early this year, indicating a collection of interrelated pieces divided into several chapters. Even though the word “hype” would probably be too much. “Translucent Communion” was certainly one of the genre’s most talked about albums months ahead of its publication. 

Despite the obvious care awarded to production and presentation, the radically idiosyncratic nature of the Vestigial cosmos seemed to oppose this kind of unanimous approval: While Dark Ambient mostly dwells upon feelings of depression or solitude, his world was filled by the regal sensation of overwhelming majesty evoked by fullmooned nights. The spiralling, monochromatic chord loops of the genre were replaced with organic development, dynamic breath and, above all, resonance. And while most colleagues used their music to deal with their personal sufferings, his work was marked by the complete incomprehensibility and alien nature of the dark side. You might find these sounds inhuman, he seemed to say, but that should prevent noone from enjoying the ride nonetheless. 

Somehow, Peppe has turned these differences into his advantage. Of course, his pronounced penchant for uncliched visual accompaniment and a talent for sculpting a recognisable script and then refining it through minute variations and a subtle will to progress artistically have helped. But at the end of the day, the essential argument was that Vestigial managed to present itself as a veritable alternative to all who thought Dark Ambient was either formulaic or childish: On 23-minute debut EP “Aeon”, plaintive harmonies still came welling up from the void and deformed voices spoke in tongues as if conjured up by a shamanic ritual. A Vinyl split with Penjaga Insaf, meanwhile, presented a similarly sombre outlook, clad in a radically more minimalistic cloth of vertiginious fibre. 

In both cases, however, the prevailing sensation was one of standing at the edge of a precipice, looking down into a glistening sea of darkness and fire, mesmerised by its beauty, terrorised by its destructive allure and the pervasive pull of the void. On “Translucent Communion”, Vestigial has taken this feeling and extended it to a dreamlike state of almost 50 minutes. All the ingredients of his style are still there and yet the album is anything but a mere continuation of his short-form releases. 

For one, individual tracks are longer than before, settling at a comfortable eight minutes on average. The ardent tidal wave of “Aeon” has made way for a tranquil sea of sulphurous sound and the frosty cold of the split has thawed. “Communion” concentrates on deep analogue synthesizer pads, providing for a continous groundrone or a foundation of repeated basstones, swelling noises like a ghost train speeding up in the mist and colliding harmonic textures. 

On a track like “The Coming”, this translates to a warm and sensual soundscape, pulsating erotically and marking time in a state of eternal arrival. Vocal samples are again a recurring theme, but they are considerably mixed down, mere artiphacts whose original meaning has long waned. Rather than providing familiarity, these utterings take on the character of field recordings, deepening the ambiance and enhancing the hypnotic effect. This becomes clearest on “Primordial Communication”, possibly the musical centre of the album and a work which could serve as an outlook into the future: A spacey opening leads into an ominous chord sequence, before Peppe unpacks the Timpanis and drums his way into ecstacy. 

The idea of “Translucent Communion” working as a single piece stretched to epic proportions is certainly apparent, with certain elements turning up at different stages of the album. And yet, the feeling of conceptual unity comes across as discreet and unforced. Likewise, it is a pleasant display of understatement that even though the record has been mastered by Raison d’etre mastermind Peter Andersson and is being released by Cold Meat, a label with a history of more than 20 years in the field of “music with a deeper reflection on life and death”, none of it is being used as a sales point. This certainly bodes well for the future of Vestigial, who still draws his ambition and inspiration from maturing creatively instead of relishing the hype. 

By Tobias Fischer 

Homepage: Vestigial
Homepage: Cold Meat Industry Records

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