Eomac – MONAD XVII [SAM]
Stroboscopic Artefact‘s preeminent Monad Series released its latest masterpiece (Monad XVII) just over a week ago. Produced by the Irish-born Eomac, the four-track EP is a hugely evocative montage that portrays a distant dystopian future, wrought with an impending quietus that is fully realised by the final track. This is Ian McDonell’s debut solo release for the label, though he has previously put out releases as one half of techno duo Lakker; it is no wonder then, that this is such an impressive EP.
For those that are not familiar with the Monad Series, the concept is driven by specific commissions given out to artists and forms a deliberate and introspective extension of the Stroboscopic Artefacts label. If their modus operandi was not experimental enough, the Monad Series is one (or sometimes two) steps further, challenging the artists to reach deeper and more imaginatively into their creative recesses. However, the series manages to maintain a great balance between experimentalism and dance-floor functionality, and thus lends itself to a truly engaging experience.
The panning chime that opens this EP sets the pace and tone, self-fabricating its infinite depth with each passing rotation, while a rumble beneath soon emerges like an obscure entity lurking in the shadows. The shrouded kick bellows in chasmic abyss, while the decaying repetition yawns with its fluctuating pitch. Patiently, it takes two and a half minutes for the first break to happen, as the track’s various components mobilise as one. The introduction is formed perfectly, not too long, but not too short either; moreover, the subtle semi-tonal shift that occurs over the course of the introductory section underpins the stimulating shift at 02:33. The primordial kick is the undisputed master, laying down an unrelenting 4×4 that calls up the dead from their graves and mobilises the masses with a totalitarian authority. It takes as much time as it needs, shifting up in systematic stages, building in energy as McDonnell elaborates on texture. Distant choirs call to the march, their Gothic robes lit by the flickering shadows of ancient ceremony. This ominous prologue closes after a suspenseful six and a half minutes, and the next chapter unfolds.
The second track, entitled ‘Moon Obelisk’, invites us into its dank subterranean chambers; a near frantic piano hook quivers under the thud of the same quaking bass drum, while rippling hats fire from both sides with a venomous, calculated precision. Towering above is the great Moon Obelisk, a structure of breathtaking magnitude. A strange energy emanates from its smooth edges and the glyphs inscribed tell of ancient stories of past millennia and premonitions of the future. It sits with an intelligent omnipresence, its towering silhouette as permanent as the sun. Utilising a similar formula, the semi-tonal shift in ‘Tubes’ appears here in a similarly effective reiteration. Yet ‘Moon Obelisk’ instantly shifts in character, with its switch of pace and the minor arpeggiation coupled with agitated percussion figures. The track builds up gradually, reaching the next phase by 02:50 via a tense breakdown. Yet this is only subsidiary to the following breakdown at 03:25, a hauntingly magical moment, led by the solo piano refrain and the constant drive of the bass drum. The track heads into oblivion, only to be consoled by a final articulation in the closing seconds.
Mixing things up, Eomac shifts into a different shade here as he carries us further through the narrative. ‘DF4’ opens with androgynous announcements echoing through the streets, void of meaning through its mindless repetition. The lamenting synth hook evokes the hopelessness of the irreversible, perhaps a precedent to the concluding track, within which this chronicle is ended. The drums awake into a breaks-styled amble, the militancy of the four-to-the-floor now pacified. The simplicity of the synth line is almost deprecating in our self-delusion, the end has been written, yet acceptance is yet to manifest. McDonnell shows skill in the layering of texture here, pushing the drums into the backcloth while the synth melody and saturated bass-line is brought forward.
The last track on the EP opens with a simple monologue, soft synths ebb into the texture, over the furry static of this final transmission. There is no promise here, and the delusional hope of utopia finally fades. There are no other options left and this bleak and heartbreaking acceptance finally releases us from the pain of unfulfilled hope. As if the dystopian-post apocalyptic narrative was not clear enough, ‘We Are Going To Die’ really puts the writing on the wall. The sombre mood is amplified, everything recedes inward, like a wilting flower, its colours fading into grey. An epitaph for humanity, the speech almost becomes an obsessive mantra and only affirms the finality of this short elegy. A simple synth melody alternates between intervals, a solitary line that hovers over the static crackling of diminishing life. Yet with each end, there is also a beginning, and perhaps this track takes an uplifting turn with this sentiment. Found in this bleak finality is the fundamental possibility for rebirth.
This is EP is nothing short of brilliant, and with such consistency it is difficult to select a unanimous favourite. Eomac’s quality production shines through on this solo project; a fine addition to the Monad series – and it begs the question: can Stroboscopic Artefacts possibly do wrong?