Diophantine Discs (n=19), 2009
Tocasen, the second album from the experimental project Moth Electret, is described as follows on the artist’s website: an ambient noise project focused on a fantasized byzantine bug culture netherworld. That was enough to pique my interest alone, but when I found out that the artist behind Moth Electret was none other than Stig Berg, I needed to hear the album immediately.
For those who may not know him by name, Stig Berg is the man behind R|A|A|N, the dark ambient project that released The Nacrasti, which many consider one of the most overlooked and underrated dark ambient albums ever released. Moth Electret is a side project of sorts for Berg, with three albums to date, all of which are less genre-oriented and more experimental than R|A|A|N, but it’s obvious that the two project share the same creative source.
Some ambient albums feature field recordings as part of their sonic palette, but some attempt to synthesize the field recording experience completely on their own. Tocasen is such an album. It sounds like the lost tapes of an explorer who stumbled upon the hidden insectoid realm, a singular recording discovered and available unfiltered; it’s the musical equivalent of a found-footage film. The album, whose seven tracks flow seamlessly into one another like an uninterrupted dream, is full of buzzes, clicks, flickers, and flutters, all part of the whole, like a hive mind. It’s hauntingly organic, moving and shifting as a single swarm; crystalline in its fragility and its complex beauty. Holding this chittering ocean together like the finest of threads is a bed of delicate drones that are unmistakably R|A|A|N-like in feel and design. If you listened to post-Nacrasti R|A|A|N compilation tracks – in particular “Account of the Salt-Plains Dancers 1936” and “Concubi” – the evolution seems natural; these tracks are very similar to Tocasen tracks such as “Neon Victoria” and “Moon Orfan.” Moth Electret, however, has ramped up the strange and toned down the dark; it’s still a dark journey through the tunnels and chambers of the chitinous host, but mystery and wonder rule the day rather than bleak lightless depths.
“Anicia” is Tocasen’s crowning moment. The sounds of multiple wings and jointed legs are everywhere, but there’s a strong sense of space and awe here. I can’t help but imagine that this is the nest at the center of the hive, and the journey has ended in the presence of the queen of this half-lit insect kingdom. The layers of noise gently rise and recede, reverentially and protectively, until the ten-minute mark, when the track shifts quite abruptly, phasing into four minutes of darkly beautiful keys with the swarm fading into the background. It’s similar in narrative structure to Sleep_Research Facility’s masterpiece album Stealth, where the threads of noise gradually fade until only the core of the B-2 remains as the craft ascends. On Tocasen, the host melts into the shadows and we’re left to witness the ruler of this kingdom in all her inhuman wisdom, winged grandeur, and clacking glory.
I find it strange that Moth Electret has gotten so little attention. Perhaps it’s not dark enough for genre purists; its aura too alien and strange. The differences are subtle, however; there’s more similarity between the projects than may be apparent. In fact, the project’s first release, LiL, originally began as a R|A|A|N album before branching into something else entirely. And that’s the crux here – Tocasen is something else, something other. I hold Sleep_Research Facility in exceptionally high regard because of the way Kevin Doherty creates spaces that are both decidedly active and passive listening conceptual experiences. With Tocasen, Moth Electret comes very, very close to achieving the same level. R|A|A|N was not the end for Stig Berg. Clearly, he still has much to give.