[album review] ensemble economique: standing still, facing forward

October 18, 2010

Album cover for Standing Still, Facing Forward by Ensemble Economique

Ensemble Economique: Standing Still, Facing Forward (Amish Records, 2010)
6 tracks/eMusic credits [buy on eMusic] [buy on Boomkat]

Ensemble Economique is in fact the nom de plume of one man, Brian Pyle (also of Californian drone-peddlers Starving Weirdos), though his cinematic soundscapes see him fulfil the roles of composer, orchestra and foley artist.

Standing Still, Facing Forward – the Ensemble’s second release, part of Amish Records’ Required Wreckers outsider series – fuses found sounds, field recording and studio-created music and noise in the service of an imaginary Lynchian film – half dream, half nightmare, all suspense. It recalls (in ambience more than form) a more muscular version of the mid-1990s isolationism of Techno Animal, Labradford, Thomas Köner et al.

Opening with the iterative cello layers of With You, At Brandy Creek (which summons Eastern Bloc urban despair rather than Californian rapids adrenalin), Standing Still weaves a narrative that encompasses haunted landscapes (Chamber Of Light), moments of violence (the volley of slow motion gunshots that closes Strangler Figs), mortal threat (the incongruously named Angkor Wat, In The Mist) and finally the awakening of a fragile, though possibly illusory, hope.

The album’s pivot is the aforementioned Angkor Wat, named after (and no doubt featuring recordings from) a Hindu temple in Cambodia. Menacing horns blast over battlefield drums and a bird’s persistent alarm call, suggesting the approach of a diabolical army – the sound of impending, certain death.

The threat passes. By the end of this highly evocative album you emerge from the nightmare – safe, perhaps, but unsettled, changed.

close to 94 rating: ★★★★★

This review is part of close to 94‘s [emusic club], which reviews one album from the eMusic catalogue every week from a selection refreshed every month.

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