Circle of Pines – Darkwater Pond

Dark Winter (dw030), 2006

The deep drones of Seetyca and the experimental electronic dabbling of Sansa come together as Circle of Pines, and it’s a mystical and dreamlike combination. Darkwater Pond carries a powerful sense of place and a reverential tone as it explores the backwater placidity of an uninhabited and untouched marshland rife with portent. The landscape is tangled and primal, and is equally beautiful and dangerous.

The musical structure is a basic but effective one: Seetyca lays down one of his trademark endless drones, creating a contemplative and somewhat daunting air, and Sansa fills the remaining space with snatches of processed field recordings and samples. The balance is largely well-kept, with neither element overwhelming the other. Seetyca is a practiced dronesman, but his broad walls of synthetics need room to move and breathe in order to maintain maximum effect, and Sansa is sensitive to this. The sacred tone of “Lichen Ritual” is centered around slowly shifting keyboard chords and a looped visceral drum, while an array of whistles, clicks, taps, vocal snippets, and lightly grinding washes enhance the mysticism; it’s easy to imagine the track as a soundtrack of the preparation to an ancient ritual. It’s a ritual that we’re only allowed to view, however; it’s far beyond our comprehension, and we have little idea of its true design, but are certain of its significance.

Much of Deepwater Pond follows a similar thread. The looped chord sequence of “Wasser-Madrigal” quickly works into one’s subconscious, speaking of past mossy aeons and great trees that have seen generations rise and fall as the passing of an hour. Both “Cove Point” and “Cloak of Fog” sees Circle of Pines creep deeper into dark ambient territory, with the desolation and latent ominousness of the ages leaking forth to mar the present with weighted intent. The drones take firm root and waver little, and the array of samples become bleak and muted. It’s thick and heady as the bed of mud underfoot, and one misstep could lead to choking disaster. Take care to keep your footing as you proceed.

“Down to the Dreamy Sky” contains the only blemish on an otherwise thrilling journey. While it begins in fine fashion, a warbling, piercing sequence soon appears, looping on itself in something of an unpleasantly shrill manner, as a sparkling series of notes twist and writhe in the murk, distracting from the damp layers of green, black, and brown. This is the lone point where Sansa’s work drowns the proceedings, and it causes a rift in the album’s darkly spiritual portrait of the ways of the serene and forgotten pools. The fact that the track is close to thirteen minutes long and doesn’t evolve much beyond the first few minutes makes it a tough one to endure, especially on repeat listens.

Fortunately, it’s easily skippable. “Zerfrorones Glas” and “Moosiges Kissen” sees Circle of Pines regaining its composure, returning us to the glades and hollows where hidden things lurk and muse. You’ll be left alone, as long as you don’t linger, and avert your gaze after the first glance. Besides, there are other untold secrets to discover, including some you’ll never see…only feel. The eerie melody of “Fissures” sinks deep into your skin, leaving you with a stark impression of this remote place of dreams; a place that is neither good nor evil, just heavy with the weight of lost time.

Darkwater Pond is a hypnotic and transporting listen, and works on a visceral level of sophistication that’s rare and precious in the genre. Circle of Pines doesn’t dazzle with technical prowess or a complex concept. All it does is lead you through a place you’ve never been, and show you things you’ll never forget. It imprints itself upon you, like the most delicate and benign of spores. As with the best albums, the impression is undoubtedly a lasting one. Darkwater Pond is a work of simple, quiet, profound brilliance.

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