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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

AKLO

Beyond Madness

Review by Gary Hill

Eric Sandberg is the musician who works under the name of AKLO. With this disc he has created a tribute to the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. For that reason it’s covered in more depth in my recently released book. I’m not positive that this disc fits into the progressive rock genre, but it’s one of those instrumental things that seems to be able to be a fairly close fit anyway. For more information about the inspiration of the song titles (and the name of the project) you should really check out that book. Plus you get some of Sandberg’s insights into the venture. You’ll also notice the disc doesn’t come with any kind of a sleeve, so you’ll just see the CD image itself here. For more info be sure to check out AKLO at www.aklo.net and on myspace.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 



Track by Track Review
Intro
Well, there’s definitely something to be said for truth in advertising. So, with that there are points to be delivered for this title for the first track of the disc. The track, as you might guess, serves as introduction to the disc by setting a tone for the rest of the album. Waves of keyboards are layered on top of each other to create a montage of mysterious and dramatic sonic textures. It segues straight into the next piece.
The Lurking Fear
A clip of a man talking about the emotion of fear (taken from an essay written by H. P. Lovecraft) starts this one off. Next a persistent pounding enters along with waves of keys that are at once pretty and disquieting. The spoken word clip returns later as the track drops towards space. Echoey waves of sound seem to compete with that pounding backdrop in a rather psychotic tapestry that also has more elements of spoken sound bites. This one doesn’t go far, but the emotional effect it has on the listener is powerful.
Rue D’Auseil
The sounds of wind and keyboard elements begin this. Then a violin like sound (it might be processed violin, but I’d guess it’s keyboards) starts to weave a melody. This fights for control with other sounds and a swirling wave of violin like texture add a psychotic, urgent, nervous texture to the track. This one is definite change of pace and one of my favorite numbers on the disc. It drops back later to just the wind then keyboards gradually begin a chiming sort of texture that rises up from this. After a time the original tones return to carry the piece forward and eventually end it.
Brain Cylinder
This cut starts very gradually with just spacey keyboard tones making up the early segments pretty well unaccompanied. After a time, though, hints of melody come across. These are delivered in the form of more keys that weave a dramatic and frightening, almost oppressive texture. About two minutes in a new noisy sound that feels a bit like an old sci-film representation of a computer shows up. This doesn’t stay around for long, though; eventually leaving just the atmospheric type textures that started it. However, those “computer” sounds return at points, but not with the sort of prominence they had before.
Swamp Cult
This begins with sounds that one might hear in a swamp. Insects and other atmospheric tones seem to fight for control of the piece. Eventually, though, chanting in the form of processed loops emerge. Then the track begins to take on a techno sort of approach as noisy percussion and harder edged sounds begin to show themselves. This beats and pounds for a time before it returns to the modes that began it. There are more weirdly processed vocals later, and eventually the pounding returns, but not so cacophonic. A short percussive, rather chaotic segment ends it.
Exham Priory
An electronic percussive sort of sound begins this one and starts a nervous sort of pounding building sound. Waves of techno like keyboards flirt over the top. This grows gradually on these elements, but then drops to just a percussive sound. Then more noisy keys in kind of a swirling pattern enter, but eventually this moves back to the sounds that preceded it.
Tillinghast’s Notebook
This is the oddest track on show here. An oddly processed spoken voice is set over the top of weird and rather nervous sounding atmospheric keyboards. This one sets an intriguing mood, but is very strange. It does take on more musical elements at points, but is just plain weird.
Yuggoth
A dark, ambient, mysterious tone begins this and very gradually the piece starts building on that foundation. This is another very odd one with just varying elements of textural keys and sound effects in seemingly random patterns making it up. While odd, I would say that it doesn’t rise quite to the level of strangeness that the previous one did.
Red Hook Alley
The opening elements of this one, with its slow sludgy deep textures (along with dripping water) remind me a bit of a track that I doubt anyone reading this review has ever heard. I once did a series of three songs based on a bass guitar solo that I played. Loaded with echo and distortion and dropped to half speed the sound was very similar to the deep tones achieved on this (see the review of my CD Déjà Vu for more on that). I’m not sure if that is how he obtained that texture, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. In any event, Sandberg eventually pulls this sound far into the backdrop and then brings across what feels like a saxophone (but might be keys) to create a jazzy sort of tone, but still with a very dissonant, dark and creepy texture to it. This track, while definitely high in the weirdness quotient, is one of my favorites on the disc.
Nyarlathotep
White noise sort of sounds begin this and rise up (along with a rhythmic sound that really couldn’t be called percussion) ever so slowly. After a time, though a new rhythm pattern that almost feels a bit funky comes in amidst the weird keyboard layers. As electronic fast paced lines of keys begin to dominate, this feels just a bit like
a darker Kraftwerk. This piece never moves far from these roots, instead working within that motif to create varying textures as the track moves on.
R’lyeh
This is not a very dynamic piece, but is quite powerful nonetheless. It is pretty, but still dark and mysterious. It does manage to convey a definite sense of majesty. This one is without question one of the strongest pieces on show here, and for that reason makes a great disc conclusion.
 
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