Gravity and Grace by Ekca LienaRelease date: March 9, 2018
Label: Consouling Sounds
Daniel W. J. Mackenzie, a fellow Brighton resident, has been concocting music under various monikers for the past decade. His improvisational work with Plurals has led to collaborations with artists such as Timothy C Holehouse, and tours with the likes of Nadja, Sly & The Family Drone, and Master Musicians of Bukkake. Under his own name, his piano work has been exhibited in Helsinki. But it is as Ekca Liena that Mackenzie has been at his most prolific and highly acclaimed. Slow Music For Rapid Eye Movement is considered a touchstone and 2015’s Graduals developed and expanded upon those ideas. And that’s not even mentioning a pair of tasty remixes for Graham Dunning (he of Mechanical Techno fame) that dropped in 2016. On Gravity and Grace this approach is pushed further still. Plumping for lesser heard elements of droning guitar and bass over his previously preferred synths, Mackenzie has somehow soundtracked the fierce edge and constructive violence necessary for the creation of the universe.
This is the aeon-straddling movements of sonic matter expanding out from beyond The Big Bang. Tiny collisions creating and snuffing out potential life. There is a weighty and sturdy rush of building drones, fuelled by the fires of new born suns and the urgency of space time gushing into existence. The sounds stretch and spread out like steely tendrils seeking a never-to-be-found home. Something resembling a human voice appears, muffled as if behind heavy doors. It is then wiped away by flourished delay, distending and compacting those utterances into a vibrating shudder.
‘Cortege Emerge’, the first of two tracks referencing a solemn procession, has triplets of bass kicking and throbbing over recorded stone masonry and guitar lines that spill out in a manner not dissimilar to grockles slipping down stones towards a lapping seashore. From here a mounting dynamism returns with thrashed metallic guitars competing for headspace that soon give way to a quiet lull. A murmuration of airy synth currents drift and turn, this way and that. There are swipes of digital confusion, mangled conversation, and the sound of seat-shifting. An impenetrable robotic monologue surfaces only to be flushed away by bass tremors. This is then interweaved with keys of shimmering ambience that seem to guzzle up all wavering undulations into a blistering horizon of radiant gold. Calling to mind, again, the relentless energy required for world-building. It is musical terraforming with a rooted foot resting patiently on a pedal of steady acceleration until all shackles are tossed aside and we are confronted with shrieks, which seem part mammalian and part sheared metal, accompanying the electronic glitches and twitches.
Bringing back the booming kick drums of its emerging half, ‘Cortege Depart’ this time pairs that pounding response with the call of a wooden clack. A gentle twist of thoughtfully plucked guitar strings narrate a journey towards solace and reassurance before a march of skin-splitting fuzz engulfs every damn thing. Marauding through each cell of your being, recalibrating gravitons and quarks with its insistent, pummelling, gear changes. This track thumps its way to a close, leaving us limp and lifeless, clinging to a vague finger-picked guitar for comfort.
Whilst a tonal continuity is retained throughout the album, there are breaks in the perceived subject matter. ‘Onset Eve’ disarms with its tiny bursts of captured delight. Popping and fading like bubbles of carbonated joy ahead of transforming into cascading petals in bloom wafting on to slumbering faces. The drones here are lighter and more spirited, providing a soaring uplift full of dreams and mercy. But, of course, this doesn’t last long. Waves of clamouring chords crash into ears. Replacing hope with doubt and dismay. Undoing all that came prior. Quashing any oneiric defiance.
The title track harks back to this clashing theme of birth from carnage. Violent electronic snarls set off a burgeoning ambience which widens and collects nuance and trembling subtleties. But there aren’t just gentle additions. Harsher brush strokes are utilised here too. Drones of calamitous power and resonance rise alongside and slice through one another. Billowing like a hungry, grey smokestack, coughing molten embers of dense noise out into the atmosphere. Sometimes allowing itself to trickle away to mumbled and dainty guitar work. It is never long before a bassline of low-end resonance, sustained for drawn out durations, challenges for attention. This is slow but not complacent. Carefully considered and unwilling to hasten. Even as feedback threatens to loom and invade. Pockets of digital grumbles warn of an incoming tirade. Those deft guitar runs waterfall into one another, increasing the tension as this shifts from eerie to downright threatening. The sounds swell and grow into something world-swallowing. Almost as if the Earth’s core is falling in on itself. Followed by chunks of stone, skyscrapers, bridges, entire landmasses and boiling oceans. All sucked into an insatiable and inevitable doom. The last thing to disappear being the fading glister of a forgotten twilight.