Seetyca – Das Zubrochene Antlitz

Enough Records (enrmp187), 2008

Until recently, I’d never heard of Seetyca, the enigmatic and prolific one-man German experimental ambient project with some seventy releases to his credit. First learning of Seetyca as part of the collaborative project Circle of Pines, as well as from the album Nemeton on netlabel Winter-Light, I was struck by how easily the project’s deep and expansive drones existed between worlds. Neither fully cloaked in the crawling shadows of dark ambient, nor completely embracing the glittery open air of new age, the work of Seetyca dwells in its own half-lit realm of mysticism, where all is both new and familiar.

Das Zubrochene Antlitz (translated roughly as “the broken face”) is a prime example of why Seetyca’s sound is so effective. The drones here are long haunting echoes that serve as a perfect foundation for added detail; it’s no surprise that Seetyca has released many collaborative albums in addition to his solo efforts. (He also somehow finds time to run his own label, Mbira Records.) To my ears, Seetyca is a master of the evocative, wide-angle, high-definition drone. He uses overdubs and chord combinations in such a way to engage one’s emotions immediately, and his vast discography is bursting with the beauty and the heartache given breath by his machines. The technical scope and gradual pace of the progression only enhance the immersive factor. Listen to the haunting yet soothing tones dominating “Wie Rauch in der Seele” for a hint of how Seetyca casts his spell; it’s just a taste of how deep this project runs.

Beyond this practiced droning is an assortment of sampled incidentals and field recordings that continue Seetyca’s quest to stake his own unique corner in ambient music. Whether it’s the strange aquatic drips of “Eyn Gothischer Athem,” the pitched female vocal loops of “Labsal Durchrinnt Mich,” or the bizarre metallic drags of the aforementioned “Wie Rauch in der Seele,” the audio portrait that’s created is highly unusual and highly creative. If Seetyca relied strictly on his web of drones, his sound would still excel, but he’s not satisfied with that, and is driven to add more depth and detail to his work. The frozen synthetic wind of “Als Ginge Mein Herz Aus” would be thrilling enough on its own, but the off-key melody that slowly creeps into frame turns the track into an unforgettably odd and somewhat childlike experience; it’s darn close to a dark ambient lullaby, all thick foggy innocence and sleeping baby goblins.

“Verlosche Mich” is particularly thrilling, with a perfectly looped drone flanked by a collage of electronic solar flares and distant vocal chants. Like most of the album, it’s a fluid and seemingly effortless production. You’d think, with such a prolific output, that Seetyca would lack inspiration, but that’s simply not the case here.

Let me point out, too, that Das Zubrochene Antlitz is indeed an album rather than a simple collection of tracks. It flows easily and casually from track to track, from start to finish, each part an integral component of the next. Seetyca does have something of a formulaic nature, but when the formula is as rock-solid as this, there’s little room for complaint. Perhaps the unique dark/light atmosphere of Seetyca has caused the project to slip unnoticed between the cracks, but there’s no really good reason for this. Excellence needs no genre label. With such a massive catalog, spread throughout so many labels, Seetyca can be a tough act to break into, but Das Zubrochene Antlitz is a majestic place to become acquainted.

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