Iszoloscope – Les Gorges Des Limbes

ant-zen (act178), 2004

It’s always vastly interesting for me when a musical project goes beyond its established identity.  Front Line Assembly is particularly noted for this, releasing albums across various genres under names such as Noise Unit, Delerium, Synaesthesia, etc.  Yann Faussurier has done this with his Iszoloscope project.  Known for its brash distorted percussive onslaught, Iszoloscope albums also contained scattered tracks of ambiance (as well as unusual bits of humor) that I always found more interesting than the barrage of power noise.  Released in 2004, Les Gorges Des Limbes contains this type of dark ambient atmospheric content, albeit expanded across an entire album.

Much less manic and reflective than other Iszoloscope releases, Les Gorges Des Limbes contains five tracks of meditative, slithery dark ambient.  Tracks one, three, and five are titled “Les Manuscrits De L’Invisible,” chapters “Un,” “Deux,” and “Trois” respectively, and are full of nicely fused drones at various pitches that excel at creating an unsettling atmosphere.  There is a decidedly strong sense of rhythm throughout these tracks, and the entire album; not surprising, when most of Iszoloscope’s sound is marked by distorted sequences of meticulously arranged percussion.  The drones are often clearly looped, giving the music an artificial atmosphere rather than the organic feel so prevalent among the best ambient.  That’s not intended as a slight, mind you, but the evolution here is certainly more measured than natural.  This is an album you appreciate consciously rather than one you lose yourself in.  The strange repeated high whine of “Your Dark And Ghostly Guidance” is deliciously creepy, but as it appears in precise intervals, it begins to lose some of its potency as the track progresses, despite being part of an unnerving framework of keys and samples.   “Reaching Out From His Watery Grave” has a strange sequence that sounds like the croaking of frogs, as well as a wonderfully chilling sample from the excellent 1980 ghost film “The Changeling”, buoyed by passes of looping static.  

Most every track has percussion, but it’s not the focus.  “Un” has a clacking that sounds like a wooden metronome, and “Deux” has a drawn-out creaking that rises and falls in the mix.  “Trois,” which is in many ways the strongest track on the album, begins with two high drones intertwining around a shimmering spine, then moves into a stealthily crackling place punctuated by echoing voice samples and a dully thumping heartbeat.  here, Faussurier uses rhythm in a much more subtle manner, while retaining the sense of progression and skewed disturbance that marks the album so strongly.

Originally conceived as a side project, Les Gorges Des Limbes shows instead the versatility of Faussurier and Iszoloscope.  His 2005 follow-up, The Audient Void, incorporated increased elements of ambient into Iszoloscope’s trademark frenzied attack, showing that his indulgence of his beatless side resulted in a more versatile sound.  Despite the new path that Iszoloscope has taken since its release, Les Gorges Des Limbes is the album that changed the band’s sound.  Taken on its own considerable merit, however, it’s also a memorable glimpse into Faussurier’s darker, more deliberate side.  It remains to be seen if we’ll get a follow-up (I cetainly hope we do), but if not, Les Gorges Des Limbes remains a fascinating genre entry that’s one of the best bits of pure dark ambient in the ant-zen catalog.

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