Downliners Sekt - Silent Ascent (2014)
Downliners Sekt have taken their time establishing a trademark sound. Barcelona duo Fabrizio Rizzin and Pere Solé's first LP, Statement of Purpose, was released nearly a decade ago, and it sounded like mildly pleasant table scraps from the waning days of IDM's glitchy heyday; 2008's The Saltire Wave ditched the ones and zeroes for shoegazey textures and patient post-rock instrumentals. They were decent records without much staying power, so it wasn't surprising when Rizzin and Solé took the top of this current decade to follow The Saltire Wave's drifting tendencies with a series of more rhythmically focused EPs turning to dance music's nocturnal charms.
Downliners Sekt - Silent Ascent (2014)
Electronic, Dubstep | InFiné Music
Lossless | FLAC | unmixed | 2014 | 01:03:28 | 369 Mb
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01. Soul Débris (8:15)
02. Silent Ascent (4:36)
03. This American Life (7:10)
04. Hors Phase (1:49)
05. Balt Shakt I (5:48)
06. Eiger Dreams (7:03)
07. Reversal (1:22)
08. Junior High (6:13)
09. Etern (5:52)
10. Balt Shakt II (6:09)
11. Once Mercurial (7:48)
12. Give Him Your Heart (1:23)
Rizzin and Solé's early attempts at straightforward club music resembled artists at a creative crossroads, as elements from their past—twitchy glitch motifs, pastoral melodic lines—yelped and wiggled under the pair's skipping, low-slung beats and foggy atmosphere. Their work since The Saltire Wave has felt more like creative workshopping and less about presentation of fully-formed ideas; on their third album, Silent Ascent, a point of comfort is reached. The record is Downliners Sekt's most sonically uniform statement to date, a steady-handed execution of a specific sound—that is, garage-leaning rhythms coated in aromatic vocal samples and drizzled in rain—that suggests a newfound confidence after a decade of trying to find their way.
It's beyond cliché in 2014 to suggest that a given dance record has taken cues from Burial's Untrue—as I recently bemoaned, the sound has been in the air since that record's release. But it's impossible to talk about Silent Ascent without mentioning that landmark record's sound. Rizzin and Solé work in the same muted grays and purples that Burial's built his name on, mostly steering clear of plagiarism by liberally applying dub textures while embracing the ruddy emerald-green textures of John Talabot's work. The primary difference between Silent Ascent and Untrue is that Downliners Sekt are more concerned with atmosphere, with tracks that double the length of Burial's comparatively concise works; regardless, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it similarities between a buried vocal sample in the first third of "Eiger Dreams" and the central figure of Burial's "Ghost Hardware" are proof that working in such a universally familiar style yields the danger of coming off as mere copyists.
Silent Ascent is often a spotless execution of one specific style—the title track's warm organs and ricocheting vocal samples represent the peak of their compositional powers—so the record's most engaging moments come when Downliners Sekt stretch their legs. "Balt Shakt I", taken from a 12" for Infiné from last year, switches things up with sultry vocals, a bed of rolling static, and aqueous synth blurps that sound ripped from ambient techno veteran Thomas Fehlmann's catalog. "Junior High" represents the record's ecstatic peak, as a pulsing house rhythm and an ecstatic vocal sample call back to Talabot's psychedelic club creations.
Downliners Sekt excel when it comes to detail, and Silent Ascent's most surprising moments are the little things—a stray synth arpeggio here and there, the music-hall piano on album closer "Give Him Your Heart". Beyond that, this 64-minute album too often sounds samey, as its melancholic fog sometimes threatens to suffocate where it should merely hang above the landscape. It's good that Rizzin and Solé have finally found a sound that, if not especially original, at least feels like a good fit; the challenge they face in the future is expanding on that style without getting too distracted. For now, Silent Ascent shows great promise from a project that was once a minor concern.
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