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Demdike Stare – Elemental review

It would be stretching it to say that Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty’s Demdike Stare project re-ignited electronic music’s sonic and aesthetic obsession with the supernatural and the occult, but it’s true that they are among the most talented proponents of such dark leanings. However, that may be about to change. The duo have been on a roll over the past year and after the release of Tryptych, they toured and started to accumulate sounds for their latest venture.

Elemental has all the hallmarks of previous Demdike Stare releases: the white noise experiments, flirtations with Middle Eastern tones and rhythms – check the North African rhythms on “Mnemosyne”  and the chilling strings of “Floor Stairwell” – and unsettling chants and discordant segues, audible on “Kommunion (Alternate Version)”, which features a steam-powered machine working its way up to a climax, and “Unction”, an unsettlingly repetitive workout.

But for all the supernatural leanings showcased by the malevolent horns and dark bass licks of “Mephisto’s Lament”, there is a more refined approach at play on Elemental. This writer would be loath to say that Canty and Whittaker have mellowed out, but the second disc in particular displays an atmospheric sensibility that had been hithero lacking. The understated beats and washes of ambient textures on “Falling Off The Edge” and the serene textures of “All This is Ours (Sunrise)” suggest as much, while the electronic dawn chorus of “Dasein”, which rises slowly and majestically, reinforces this feeling. Whether or not this is just a temporary holding position for the project is open to discussion and they may revert to sampling the sounds of hash-drugged killers. For the time being, it sounds like these troubled souls have found an escape from the enveloping darkness.

Richard Brophy

Tracklisting (CD version):

1. New Use For Old Circuits
2. Mephisto’s Lament
3. Kommunion (alternate version)
4. Unction (alternate version)
5. Mnemosyne
6. Shade
7. In The Wake Of Chronos (alternate version)
8. 10th Floor Stairwell
9. Violetta
10. Metamorphosis
11. All This Is Ours (Sunrise)
12. Erosion Of Mediocrity
13. Nuance
14. Falling Of The Edge (alternate version)
15. Dauerlinie
16. Dasein
17. We Have Already Died
18. Ishmael’s Intent