Divergent Ways – First Light Part One EP [DW]
“A quest towards convergence in divergence.
Paraenesis for obstinacy, trueness and integrity”
(Check out our interview with Divergent Ways here)
A new, mysterious collective has emerged from the depths of the Parisian Catacombs and has landed with their first EP. Dark, macabre, and sophisticated; this is exactly why we should be very excited for the coming future of an evolving scene in Paris and France. Innovation and creativity is slowly running dry across the landscape, yet there are outfits that are defiantly searching and knocking heads to come out with fresh and inspiring new music. The EP, entitled First Light, is the first half of a two-part release from nascent record label Divergent Ways. The interview we did with them is an enlightening dialogue that goes into more detail about their creative and artistic influences as well as some release information about First Light part 2 and their plans for the coming year.
The EP pulls on existing conventions and twists them into something that is hybridly different and uniquely refreshing. The perfect composite of ambiguous yet transparent, it is clear that they have a defined agenda, a crystalised intention, yet the music is hidden behind veils of possible meaning and a Deleuzeian multiplicity of interpretation. There are no individual artist names that appear with the tracks, where instead the label has decided to release as a collective. Taking away the focus and possible exploitation of individual, marketable names or identities, Divergent Ways approach this process admirably, allowing the music to speak for itself and to be left unadulterated by any preconceived ideas or opinions. Yes, there still exists a paradox in that we must still label the music under the necessity of definition and stylistic authorship, yet acting as a collective allows for a dynamic and multifaceted output that is at once grouped by vernacular unity but also empowers the art in ways that are unique to this method of operating.
The first track, Afrum, opens the EP sinisterly with a twisted parody of a nursery rhyme-like melody, a broken tape that dances unabated for the full ten minutes. The derision of this piano motif nudges us deeper into paranoia, its dualistic character plays on a major-minor tonality that covers its malevolence under this veiled, ostensive innocence and playfulness; meanwhile a throbbing bass emerges in the undercurrent, gradually imposing itself as a pulsating acid figure enters to accompany it. There is something they know that you don’t. Be afraid. Understated drums and percussion layer the soundscape with dark corners and sliding shadows as the track builds in strength. The artist has really filled the space effectively, subtly shifting the harmonies and textures of this nebulous organism. The track flows onward assuredly, a descending counter-melody enters following the introduction to further derail what certainty remains. Harmony is elaborated with long arching strings that fill the auditory space, hand-crafting the ambience in subtle, delicate ways. The piano refrain is deceptively alluring, alike the playfulness of an angelic child that morphs by the second track into a blood curdling, grotesquely deformed creature. More sophisticated voicings unfold onto the misty landscape as the track reaches its peak circa seven minutes; new rhythmic motifs add clarity and pace that give some solid form to the previously amorphous body, the kick shuffles in agitation, nudging us gently forward with a subdued restlessness, guiding us knowingly into the darkness and sheer horror of B1, titled Prado.
Any hopes of a more optimistic route are quickly extinguished by Prado‘s emphatic opening with the heartbeat of the kick drum guiding us through saturated synths and an anxious piano hook. Divergent Ways use layered textures to turn the heat up as the track rises in intensity. The play on chromatic harmonies with the entry of another clearer piano line makes for a dark and feverish psychosis; the layered texture is chaotic and oppressive, a swathing, simmering mesh of looping delays and saturated percussion. The second phase begins with the falling semitone motif in the piano, and is used to shift everything up a level; rattling hats quiver vexingly, panning both sides in a hissing torrent. Ever so slightly terrifying, Prado claws provocatively at the listener; the lurid, bell-like piano hits are offensively saturated, grinding against the ears like the scraping of metal. Details like the siren that falls a minor third at exactly two minutes are subtleties that contribute to such an effective execution.
What might loosely be labeled the breakdown strips the texture down to include solely the prominent piano loop, its repetition notching up the intensity with each passing second. The insanity is met half-way through by an apocalyptic motif that enters like a crashing hammer, the fateful descending melody is quite possibly the death wish we have been running from. The fate is sealed, if ever it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. It seems there is nowhere else for this to go as the track reaches its climax, however swiftly after it deconstructs down to a single line to make way for the final track on the EP.
The EP grows and ferments with each track, finally reaching its apex on B2, the EP’s title track First Light. An accumulation of the whole EP, First Light unifies all previous motifs in a beautiful symphony of relentless 4×4 drive. Divergent Ways amalgamate material found throughout the EP to produce something that is musically very cohesive and sophisticated, arguably one of the rarer features found in electronic dance music. Pumping through, the four-to-the-floor kick and hats offer some solidarity, something to hold onto, in contrast to the looser, more impermeable nature of previous tracks. Where the offensive piano treatment of Prado is overbearing, the piano sound in First Light is much more focused. It’s as if the previous content has been taken and purified to produce this glossy, sparkling techno roller that glides through the air like a graceful, powerful force of nature. The second phase of the introduction circa twenty five seconds introduces the opening figure we found in Prado, a syncopated repetition that weaves in and out of the texture. After an introductory section powered by drones and once again able treatment of voices and texture, we are revisited by the original motif that opens the EP. The return of this motif is both nostalgically haunting and hugely powerful. The harmony of this opening motif acts differently here as First Light operates in the key of A minor (as opposed to C minor in Afrum), but then modulates to G major in a pivotal shift of harmony, giving it this elevated, transcendent character. The relationship that these keys share is what so effectively joins up the material but at the same time gives such powerful characterisations in the music; moreover the fundamental structure of this motif is what allows it to move transiently between these keys, its essence dictated by what happens underneath it. The first appearance of this motif acts as a pre empt to the catharsis that floods into the track’s climax. With the passing of each section, the track builds in energy and momentum, ascending to greater heights with its well-handled harmonies and its invigorating textures, with the help of splintering hats and a driving kick drum. As the track reaches its peak, the introduction of drones descend in a major arpeggio that tie up the texture into a torrent of pure euphoric energy. What was ominous and overcast has now been transformed into something assured, comforting, and liberated. A matter of a simple shifting of perspective has altered the state, and provides for the light at the end of the tunnel. This one will liberate the unresolved dance-floor, for peak moments of transcendence.
What is so infectious about this final track is the effortless drift between moods, the track becomes strangely euphoric – surprising and unpredictable if anything, while juxtaposed with darker material. The use of selected material from previous tracks is a wonderful back-reference that ties up the EP beautifully. Additionally what is very interesting is the collaboration aspect of this EP, where the sound is holistic and complete yet derived of different artistic minds.
The EP as a whole treats motifs with a keen and noticeable aptitude, sewing up the material in a cogent weave of noir finesse. With enough substance to form some sort of imaginable narrative, in spite of the abstract concepts that inspire this work, the EP is strangely powerful in its communication. Divergent Ways are ones to watch, and it will be interesting to see the direction in which they take this project over the coming years. There is something happening in Paris, and it’s showing huge potential…
“When you dream where does the light come from? There is a light that has a clarity as great or greater than the daylight vision, and a lucidity of color that’s beyond how we see color now… I’m interested in the point where this imaginative vision meets the seeing that comes from what we want to think of as outside physical reality, because it has a lot to do with how we create reality.”