Loki Foundation (LOKI 29), 2001
While there’s nothing quite like the experience of reading a solid novel, a collection of short stories certainly carries merit. I remember reading a comment by an author – I think it was horror writer Robert R. McCammon – who said that a short story should be like a ride in a fast car: exhilarating, immediate, unmatched, and over too soon…..but compact, so that the thrill doesn’t wear thin. He’s on to something, I think; short stories tend to have a more concentrated impact, but I prefer the lengthy and evolving experience of a novel.
Here’s why I bring this up: in my view, Inade’s album The Crackling of the Anonymous is a collection of dark ambient short stories. The fantastic title of the album is referred to in the liner notes: “The crackling of the anonymous is a symbol for the experiences, which results from the radiation fields of the immeasurable. In the levels of the infinity, dissonances are mutated and compressed by divine signs or even by occurring anonymous factors.” Such metaphysical musings are nothing new to Inade, the brainchild of Germany’s Knut Endlerlein and Rene Lehmann. The album’s cover art follows a similar bent, with odd forked and weblike shapes, and a disembodied brain hovering over a green whirlpool inside a ghostly broken triangle. It’s more than a little baffling, and certainly interesting; a great concept for the amorphous unfurling atmospheres of dark ambient.
All well and good, except I find the music itself doesn’t quite match the lofty presentation. Each track seems disconnected from the others (perhaps intentionally?), and there’s enough disparity in the listening experience to reduce the immersion that is so prevalent in the genre. Hence my comparing Crackling to a collection of short stories.
The opening track, “Eternity’s Crevice,” is certainly a promising prelude. It’s classic dark ambient, with its dramatic tones, metallic patterns, and ominous presence. “Disconnecting States” uses a similar palette, with synthetic swirling and twitching fitted around deliciously haunting keys, but the mood is broken with repeating vocal samples about alternate states of mind. I find this kind of direction unnecessary in the dark ambient world, and even counterproductive; the music is often about letting one’s mind drift away to alien realms, and I don’t need a signpost to tell me that, much less one that repeats itself. “Chapel Perilous” isn’t quite as awe-inspiring as the title suggests, using a tribal-style percussive loop and a distorted-vocal couplet that moves the track close to post-industrial territory. Again, not a bad thing, mind you, but it does shift the listener’s experience. The strange whip-like sounds and Lustmord-ian, weirdly organic bleats (Inade are truly geniuses at creating distinctly unique noises) of “Caldera” create a journey through a smoke-choked landscape, but again, the journey is diverted by the sampled dialogue of “To Those….”, which is about the spoken words rather than the atmospherics.
Inade can certainly conjure otherworldly experiences. “Titan in Shivering Sand” is proof, with its evocative haze and bizarrely mysterious clankings that make me think of a huge machine buried in some vast desert, but the sample-riddled “Quartered Conclusion” takes me to a new place just as my mind is getting comfortable. Once more, perhaps this is the point, but I think dark ambient works best in the slow-burn format of a novel.
The Crackling of the Anonymous feels like an album of separate songs rather then a cohesive album. What’s here is well-done, without question; Inade doesn’t have the reputation it does for nothing. The duo clearly understands flow and evolution, along with technical mastery; I’ve never heard such a weird collection of truly alien sounds. In the end, however, the album sounds like just that – a collection of strangeness, rather than a distinctive experience that follows a concept other than inspired experimentation. “Breath Like Ground Glass” is one of the straight-up weirdly inventive dark ambient tracks I’ve ever heard, but the album is too fractured to maintain a consistent feel. Crackling is a collection of dark ambient shorts, with all the peaks and valleys and varying experiences that comparison implies.