Ekca Liena/A Death Cinematic - Preternatural [Small Doses - 2011]
A split cdr from Small Doses, featuring the work of Ekca Liena, and A Death Cinematic; two solo guitar droners… There’s one long track, divided into three, from the former, and four from the latter; about an hour’s music, all told. The packaging is essentially simple, but with very fitting images; I say “essentially”, because the outer card wallet is wonderfully cut with little circular holes - windows on the card inserts within.
Ekca Liena (Daniel MacKenzie of the magnificent Plurals) is first up, with a half-hour monolith of a piece. Despite aligning itself with the usual adjectives thrown around in this area - “ethereal”, “floaty”, “lush”, “dreamy”, heavenward” - its noticeably weighty; not heavy, as such, but certainly anchored to the ground. The bulk of the work is built on a bedrock of thick, focussed drones, with a variety of detail drifting over the top. The most obvious reference point, for my ear, is the seminal Flying Saucer Attack; the sparse chords that open “Mid Life Aftermath” seem to echo their work. But its Flying Saucer Attack at their most expansive, their most stretched, their most barren; and, for a band that I associate with dusk or dawn, this is very much night music. The last part, “With Invisible Walls”, builds up into quite a malevolence; with clanking percussion panning through the speakers, background swirls spiralling upwards, and some eerie whistling - its like some demented form of gagaku, or the closing soundtrack to a bleakly nihilistic spaghetti western. The general tone, though, is warm but apprehensive; as if the earlier passages already know of their destination.
A Death Cinematic sets a different tone from the first sound, being (to my ears) very clearly recorded with a guitar “straight in”. Whilst Ekca Liena is lo-fi in tone, and quite possibly also recorded “straight in”, it doesn’t draw attention to its production, in the way that A Death Cinematic does. With this transparent “bedroom” element to the four tracks, plus some noticeably out of tune and time playing, A Death Cinematic really need some serious charm to avoid sounding somewhat inept. But it really isn’t there; and since the music appears to often aim at a prettiness and a stateliness, these sins are doubly damning. So we have a series of melodic instrumentals, played noisily on guitar; with varying results. These tracks tend to wander, for better or worse; they sprawl - sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with a psychedelic cadence. There’s never any real sense of direction. Whilst this all sounds bad, “The Winds Whip Torn Clouds To Rain And Soot”, has a effective passage: a singing saw sound over some gentle chords. But this is immediately preceded by a baffling section of sub-metal chugging, which is crudely faded out into the aforementioned gentle chords. If you add to the imagined brew some ill-chosen guitar effects (though, I’ll admit, I’m picky in this area), then you might do well to think of the works of some solo Black Metal projects. But where many of these, otherwise irredeemable, projects can be saved, through the atmosphere they create with artwork, titles and the general baggage of that genre; A Death Cinematic doesn’t have those safety nets. Whilst the titles of the tracks here are dark and obscure, the very name of the project suggests something more post-rock; and I do feel that the sounds and notes are aiming more towards that - but they don’t succeed.
This could have been a very complimentary split, but, alas, the A Death Cinematic contributions let it down somewhat. So its a landslide victory for Ekca Liena, and certainly worth getting for that hazy half-hour. Martin P