Old Captain Records (OCCD05), 2012
Eugene Voronovsky is a classically trained musician and graduate of the Moscow State Conservatory, but his work as Cisfinitum is far beyond classical. A combination of noise, dark ambient, and melodic synth, Landschaft, the project’s fourth release, offers a heady and thrilling combination of styles while incorporating granules of Voronovsky’s training. The result is an album that conjures a startling sense of a devastated territory, much in the vein of Stalker, Robert Rich and Brian Lustmord’s influential 1995 collaboration, but with a murkier sound and a wider scope.
The two middle tracks, “Landschaft I” and “Landschaft II,” are bookended by “Inland” and “District Delta.” I group the tracks this way because there are common elements to each set: the “Landschaft” tracks are long explorations in atmospheric experimentation, while the opener and closer feature more traditional musical structures. Despite this division in stylistic approach, the album follows a consistency in sound that holds it together, and imparts something of a cinematic edge to the proceedings.
“Inland” and “District Delta” are quite beautiful. The layered flowing keyboards are the focus on each nine-minute track, evoking a nostalgic and contemplative aura while layers of noise hiss and swell. One could consider them an invitation and a farewell to the bizarre journey that lies between. The lamenting wails that arise toward the end of “Inland” are a portent to the bleakness that is soon to follow, and as the rising noise and whistles bury the synth lines, it seems that a barrier has been crossed.
The twin “Landschaft” tracks are fascinating pieces of work. They evolve in unexpected ways – you might hear snatches of speech, bits of distorted hymns, or stretches of near-silence – as they bear you along a strange and broken landscape. It’s here that the Stalker comparisons are strongest, as it sounds very much like an audio tour of some unfortunate stretch of blasted and ghost-haunted terrain, but Cisfinitum’s interpretation flows with a bit more focus; no ethnic pipes or strange organic bleats to be found. There’s just the echoes of a lost place, floating in and out of the range of hearing as you drift through. Each track is about twenty minutes in length, allowing Voronovsky plenty of room to examine his themes and structures, but they seem to end far more quickly than their running time might suggest – a tribute to Cisfinitum’s skill and attention to detail. This is an example of traveling without moving, and it’s a journey full of surprising turns and unanticipated corners. You’ll encounter another wandering melody deep within the territory of “Landschaft I,” as a reminder of where the journey began, and it provides a moment of solace within the bleak walls of processed noise and dirty-seeming samples. “Landschaft II” touches upon panoramic and titanic moments of drama, lost-signal whistles, and quiet subterranean reverberations, all with a decidedly non-artificial feel.
“District Delta” must be a safe haven within the wasteland, for its melding tones and practiced emotion are wondrous to behold. Voronovsky indulges his training here, but still within the framework established by his fantastically envisioned trek through the twilit places between. This is a place of rest and recovery, but the shadows are just outside, and must be encountered again, before too much time is lost.
Landschaft is, quite simply, an incredible piece of work. It moves between styles with enviable ease, and neither forces its hand nor delves too far from its core. Voronovsky displays his musical, compositional, and creative talents in a one-hour journey that, in its own way, stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the more acclaimed Stalker. In fact, I prefer Cisfinitum’s strange and melodic foray into a desolate place I’ll (gladly) never visit in person. Cisfinitum has a reputation for excellence in electronic experimentation, and Landschaft shows this rep is certainly deserved. There aren’t many dark ambient albums I’d label essential for anyone beyond the niche, but Landschaft is certainly one of them.