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Demdike Stare – Tryptych review

It’s all too easy to get lost amidst the droning mists of darkness, menacing found sound samples and sudden blankets of bass and industrial textures that characterise the music of Demdike Stare. Even more so when plunging head first into Tryptych, this luxuriously presented and expanded compendium of the Lancastrian duo’s three albums that Modern Love released last year. By the inherent nature of those albums – vinyl only and in limited quantity – this extended package is perhaps the first chance many have had to fully indulge in the sounds of a duo they have most likely read much about.

What fascinates most is the progression of sound and understanding between Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker that grows across each of the albums. One a key cog in the Finders Keepers empire of dusty fingered reissues of obscure music, and the other already ensconced in the Modern Love family as part of Pendle Coven, together they seem to revel in the creative possibilities. Their debut release together, Symbiosis, ushered in a sonic vision shrouded in faux mysticism and eeriness and touched on an intriguing panoply of influences including everything from drone, obscure field recordings and KPM Library music to Basic Channel, dub and Chicago House.

The template laid down there has been extended and expanded on throughout Forest of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing and Voices Of Dust. As mentioned above there’s a real progression to the Demdike Stare sound that unfurls across the course of the albums and it’s  perhaps fun to view each of the albums as soundtracking chapters of an imaginary survival horror film – this was the original intent of the Demdike Stare project – perhaps directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, given the length. Forest of Evil is the apprehensive first steps into the sonic unknown, mercifully short but full of heart racing twists. Despite your best intentions, you return with Liberation Through Hearing and find yourself fully ensconced in the claustrophobia filled nightmare – most notably on tracks such as “Regolith”.

Voices Of Dust retains this inherent creepiness – witness the tribalist headfuck of “Hashshashin Chant” descending in and out of cold war style subaqueous drones. The listener is presented with several opportunities to escape the darkness – “Repository Of Light” for example – yet exhilaratingly you prefer the plunge back into the sonic abyss.  Whilst this is an exhaustive release to try and attempt to absorb in one sitting (an approach tried and swiftly canned prior to reviewing) Tryptych’s qualities fully reveal themselves given time. It’s intriguing to ponder where Canty and Whittaker might venture next.

Tony Poland