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Abrasive Ambient


Since I've been into the more minimal music lately, and since I already owned the quite good album Quique by Seefeel already, I sprung at the chance to buy their import-only album Succour for super-cheap on one of my latest music buying sprees. On their aforementioned Quique album, they nicely mixed together ethereal female vocals with just the right touch of shimmering soundscapes. It was a pretty mellow affair, even more stripped-down than something like Bowery Electric's Beat, but it was a very interesting sound that took elements of the 4AD label release sounds by the Cocteau Twins and the like and added a more cold, electronic feel to them. If you're into that sort of thing, it's great.

The first thing that you may or may not notice about Succour is that it has taken that edge that their last album had and pushed it even further. Instead of just including droning, shimmering soundscapes, the group has moved into even more industrial sounding landscapes. When I say industrial, I'm not talking about KMFDM or Ministry, rather the sound of the group has gotten a little more of a harsh edge. The feedback levels are pushed up just a couple more notches, and beats and other noises just simply sound a little more abrasive than on their last release. Again, though, the group manages to pull off this juxtaposition nicely, even though there are also much less vocal tracks that before.

In fact, the first song on the disc, "Meol" is a very good indication of things to come. The vocal-less track is really nothing more than five and a half minutes of very haunting tones that weave in and out of one another, all the while flirting closer and closer to abrasion. After another haunting second track (with a weird little repetitive melody that echoes something that might be heard on Aphex Twins Selected Ambient Works Volume 2), the album really begins showing its differences with "When Face Was Face." With a much more harsh beat than the group has ever done, the light, indicipherable lyrics play the part of sitting on the other side of the musical see-saw. More distorted beats make their presence known on the aptly titled "Fracture," as well as the ever-present background keyboard drones. Again, only small bits of vocals by Sarah Peacock (intertwined with small bits of feedback) offset the more grinding rhythms that Mark Clifford has concocted. "Rupt" and "Cut" move in even more dark, grimy territory with their dub influence, while "Vex" clangs along with more of that early Aphex sound.

On the album as a whole, it sounds like Clifford may have been more influenced by label-mates such as Richard D. James and Autechre in the creation of the soundscapes behind everything. It's not a bad thing, but it does move in different directions than Quique or even Polyfusia. Not only does the disc contain some of the same fairly miminal drone/ambient/ethereal quality of their last releases, but it goes in new directions on the noise and abrasion side of things to make for even more interesting juxtapostions of sound. Also, the group dissolved not too much longer after the release (in 1995) of this disc, so it's the last studio document of an interesting group.

Rating: 6.5