Esmark: Tones from a Glacial Engine

14th June 2017

Title: Māra I / Māra II

Label: Bureau B

I’m sure that there’s not too many groups out there that have been named after a glacier. This one has, it’s in Spitzbergen, in case you’re interested. This CD is a collaboration between two chaps, the sound architect Nikolai von Sallwitz (you may have heard of him from Taprikk Sweezee or Karachi Files) and the experimental artist Alsen Rau (again, you may know him from Scheich in China or On+Brr). They are not strangers to each other, though. They’ve been working on projects as a pair since 2001.

Esmark has used a number of “drum computers” and “synth boxes” to provide an analogue feel to their music with a host of sound effects and filters to change the texture and tone. Other noises have been recorded onto tape and fed into the mix.

Esmark_1 (Credit Tobias Unger)

And, really, that’s why this album gives you more than anything else: texture. Yes there are bass beat-driven tracks here but a lot of the music sees rhythms which are independent and monotonous in their form. They interact with effects and noises to then provide a complex drone suite that tells you more about the life of that glacier I mentioned above. The electronics here are driving, often not by a bass beat but by an insistent series of tones and engine-like determinations. The music sounds insistent and unfailing, adding otherworldly filigrees to sometimes provide an atmospheric blanket to the soundstage. You won’t be grooving to much of this album at the local disco but your mind might very well be exercised instead.

That said, bass beats are sometimes investigated but often in a rhythmic drone of their own, the only variation being effects-based textures.

This is a meditation upon a series of moments and those moments are explored in almost Proustian detail.