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Nicholas Szczepanik: "The Chiasmus"

img  Tobias

It is a strange paradox that we see things clearest in the most terrible nightmares. In the neon-light of the moon spying through your window, everyday horrors are turning into panic, paralysis. suffocation, claustrophobia and black shadows hunting you down an endless dark road. And so it should seem only apt that Nicholas Szczepanik, to whom making music has always been connected with an endless series of questions, doubts, queries and concerns, should nonetheless come to regard composition as a process leading to some kind of hidden truth about himself and the world around him. To Sczczepanik, sound is a psychological seismograph minutely detecting atmospheric amplitudes and extracting meaning from the black box of emotion. „The Chiasmus“ may be the most precise and pristine musical profile he has produced until now.

Interestingly, the final product comes without the uncertainties attached to its creation: „The Chiasmus“ sounds developed and confident, while leaving enough open endings to wet one's appetite for future explorations. This self-confidence is the result of a slow creational process completely detached from the usual cravings for credibility, trendiness or trivial pretensions. Szczepanik doesn't appear to want to prove anything to anyone with his work and he doesn't need to either. It may not be the hippest or most revolutionary thing in the world to build your pieces almost entirely around drones – only occasionally and shortly weaving a solitary sample or quiet field recording into their texture – but it happens to be his forte. With nothing but a handful of ghostly organ chords and hallowing harmonics, he creates fields of almost static ambiances, galaxies of plaintive sound matter drifting dizzily inside a milky-way-sized fishbowl. It is the kind of music for which, with all likelihood, the term „zone“ was invented, creating an almost frightening physical tension and creeping up on you as the darkness slowly sets in outside.

A considerable part of the overall effect of „The Chiasmus“ is down to minute mixing and ingenious use of filters. On paper, 18-minute „Temporary Inundation of Sleep by Open Window“ consists of a single sequence of resonating frequencies. By amplifying the Bass spectrum, however, and by creating dynamic cycles of overtones always ever-so-slightly out of sync with each other, its elements are creating a subtle sense of movement – even though it rather resembles the slow-motion gestures of a sleeper caught in a bewildering dream. It is the same logic which drives „We define everything in desperation“, even though the mood is sweet rather than secluded here, sensual rather than sexually surreal. As the album progresses, both its sense of minimalism and outward development are increased. On „The Silhouettes of a Winter's Sunset“, Szczepanik opens with a several-minute long unperturbed plane. Some crackling micronoises appear out of nowhere and discreetly disappear again. Their presence seems irrelevant at first, but gradually, the piece starts growing in intensity and viscosity, fading out into a subdued, yet luminous finale. It is testimony to how much thought has gone into every detail: The chains of cause and reaction are still very much intact  as every element reveals a carefully composed purpose over time.

Szczepanik is perfectly happy to restrict his task to that of an all but invisible guide, directing his themes as three-dimensionally as a puppeteer. But he is equally unafraid of rupturing his carefully constructed tranquility with a forceful microtonal introduction and a sudden blast of noise at the end, shaking his audience from their reveries. These two demarcations, placed strategically at the very beginning and end of the album make „The Chiasmus“ more than just a pleasing and well-constructed work of ambience. It is thanks to them that this otherwise calm and composed record suddenly starts asking uncomfortable questions, causes doubt, creates confusion and uncertainty. By cutting these thoughts apart in the final seconds, Nicholas Szczepanik is not reverting to shock tactics, but actually sending out a sign of hope: Even the most horrible nightmares will come to an end eventually.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Nicholas Szczepanik
Homepage: Basses Frequences
Homepage: Sentient Recognition Archive Records