Stimmenwald - Akesis [Void Singulator Recordings - 2019]Stimmenwald is the new dark ambient project from Casper van der Veen, who will be known to wall fans for his bleakly contemplative drone-wall project Uitgeschakeld. Akesis is the projects first ever release, and it comes in the form of a C60/ digital download on Uk's largely walled based label Void Singulator Recordings.
The smoked see-through grey cassette features labels on each side, and this comes in black & white cover that on its front cover features a picture of an extremely skinny man in mediation. The tape appeared in an edition of twenty, and as of this review, the label still has copies left.
After to enjoy most of what I’d heard from his wall project Uitgeschakeld, I was keen to see what this new more ambient focused project was like. To start with the cover & feel of both tracks is very darkly meditative, which of course fits in with the themes of Uitgeschakeld – for example, this project's 2016 four CDR set The Four Stages of Enlightenment, saw him solo focusing in on Buddhism. Next, sonically Mr van der Veen attempts to be both vast, and darkly intimate- which at times does come off as a little unbalanced/ uneven… anyway, let's get stuck into track by track, and I’m afraid to say for me personally it felt very much a game of two halves.
So first up on side A we have the track “Hesychia”- this is built around a dense, at times fairly compressed & blunt blend of modified & droned-out ritual ringing & cluttering tones- these are a underfed by a simplistic shadowy drone. As the track progresses van der Veen dots in additional subtle gong rings, the occasional lose junk metal texturing, grim Buddhist chants, and most problematic hushed/ whispered male vocals. These are clearly meant to be both chilling & uneasy- but unfortunately, they sound neither to me, they sound like a dude trying to sound creepy and not really succeeding. Trying to create otherworldy & grimy dark vocalizing is damn difficult, and you are often treading the very thin line between effective & silly- and sadly here it just feel mostly like the second. The sonic backdrop is mediocre at best with the processing of the tones & slowly lulling droning feeling more than a little cliche & bland- so as a result ones attention already is drifting from the off, & then of course the vocals slide in & we lose any feeling of seriousness & uneasy.
Flipping over to the second side & we have the title track. Here we find a slightly lighter more contemplative example of ambiance with some gloomier/ grimmer edges. The track is created by a blend of slowly simmering & circling ambient tones which are brought together to create a rather compelling & entrancing track- we get a hovering & slightly sunlight hazed blend simmering mids & lightly glowing harmonic highs- these lightly ebb 'n' drift around each other to creating this wonderful pulling like quality which is akin to looking up a circling & detailed glowing cloud map, which seems to be slowly but surely pulling you up & up. It really is the complete opposite of the fairly heavy hand & at times amateurish feel of the first side- with this track, Mr van der Veen seems have perfectly distilled & tooled his ambiance, so it’s both haunting & lightly harmonically edged.
As an opening release, Akesis feels very lopsided- and at times it almost feels like the tracks could have been done by two different artists. Let us hope future release sit more towards the second track, instead of the first- so certainly if you’ve enjoyed the more meditative side of Mr van der Veen wall work- I’d give this a go, but just don’t judge it on the first track, as unfortunate it’s not great, and at times borders on sounding plain bad.Roger Batty