godless by The Corrupting Sea

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The Corrupting Sea | godless
Cathedral Transmissions (CDR/DL)

Listening to The Corrupting Sea, I am struck immediately by two-things. Firstly, it’s composer, Jason T. Lamoreaux, has constructed a nuanced and often charming take on the ambient/drone genre, channeling a certain raw and unpolished gravitas that is highly effective. Secondly, the album – and it is perhaps a reflection on my personal bias as much as the specific properties therein – suffers from the inclusion of an instrument I find almost impossible to enjoy.

On occasion, artists make aesthetic choices so jarring, so incongruous, they can single-handedly overwhelm their otherwise good work, fundamentally reshaping the aesthetic world they have constructed in a manner that comprises any existing compositional unity.  Whilst this can be a brave and rewarding choice – indeed, such an approach underpins many of the more successful and challenging bastions of contemporary art – I am not convinced that The Corrupting Sea has achieved, or even intended, anything so seismic with godless

The album begins as a misleading ambient-by-numbers affair, with an effective, reverb-drenched drone that is both cautiously tense and pleasingly static. A feeling that this might be a little run-of-the-mill soon subsides, as it becomes clear that the composer has an apparently fine ear for the more subtle and restrained aspects of his genre – this mellow tone, ever on the edge of urgency, is soon joined by a muted bass-line that carries and reframes the drone without ever deviating from its mood. The longer this section lasts, the better it gets – whilst not particularly well-crafted in terms of sound-design, the resulting mood is akin to a glacial Angelo Badalamenti, with the bass melody delivering a haunting, ineffable nothingness that suggests a general unease without ever overplaying its hand.  The first 5 minutes, replete with a cautious sparsity and melodic grit, sits within that small band of fine ambient music that courts an almost unearthly temporality – a feeling as if the sound-world on offer could go on indefinitely without losing its appeal.

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Unfortunately, after 5 or so minutes, a distorted synth is introduced – an addition that begins as merely a little annoying, and persists until it is, to my ears at least, utterly and frustratingly incongruous. The lack of refinement that permeates the drone/bass combo is charming, but for some reason the more distorted tones stand out as both inconsistent and unnecessarily harsh.  It is not that we are dealing with any form of noise music, but that the character of this new element completely detracts from everything that has come before. Not only does it feel somewhat underdeveloped, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was listening to the sound of someone messing about with some fx pedals without real intentionality, neither improvised nor composed but merely placed upon the existing sound-world with little care or attention.  Its effect is such that it compromises the existing sense of ineffable ambience, allowing the work to function neither as a pleasant soundscape nor as a work of drone, since the sporadic nature of this new synth prevents the mind from entering into any sort of temporal immersion. It is almost as if the composer inexplicably lacked faith in the durability of their own composition and felt a new texture was warranted, despite all of the strength and character they had already amassed. 

The initial drone/bass continues throughout the track, and whenever the more distorted elements subside, we return to that same wonderful aesthetic. At times, we are greeted by further elaboration – the bass tones turn faintly chordal, a glacial flurry of new notes, an ebb and flow of the tuned reverb – but such variations, though often lovely, are soon followed by a return of the dreaded synth.  This is all the more a pity for the structural and tonal integrity of the rest of the composition. The track builds in a slow and fulfilling manner over its 40 minute length, and sounds extremely cohesive for much of that time. I am left after each listen wishing that the composer had simply avoided the offending instrument altogether – without it, godless is a wonderful album, fulfilling many of the more abstract tendencies of its genre with an added and extremely nuanced sense of melody that is so often lacking in this kind of music.

Ultimately, those who are already fans of this sort of ambient/drone type of affair, may well find much to love about The Corrupting Sea‘s work – though it is not striking for its novelty or its experimentalism, it is by and large a lovely example of its genre, and if were not for that single, omnipresent distorted synth, this would be a extremely gratifying album.  It is worth a listen nonetheless – others aficionados of the style may well have a significantly less severe opposition to its meandering, acerbic interventions than myself. 

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