Demdike Stare, Tryptych

Lee Smith

By Lee Smith

on 03.18.11 in Reviews
Entering intense portals of abstract yet weirdly connected atmospheric sound

Miles Whittaker, the "DJ" of the Modern Love operation and one of the first label acts to really investigate the dubstep-techno crossover of recent years, took his fascination with dub-inspired sounds in wild new directions along with Sean Whittaker as Demdike Stare. Their 2009 debut Symbiosis hinted at the doom-tinged drones of dark ambient overlord Tim Hecker, engulfed by dub music's cavernous reverbs and bass thrums, but it was their remarkable Tryptych series of LPs in 2010 that saw Modern Love jump far away from anything that its listeners previously knew as techno or, indeed, as dub. Employing mock-sinister connotations of witchcraft and stylized Gothicism into their immaculately crafted image, the duo found themselves at the centre of the so-called witch-house movement, but Tryptych is considerably deeper, denser and more disturbed than the vast majority of acts it's been lumped alongside, sharing more in common with the bass-driven psychedelia of Shackleton and Actress than the crunchy, lo-fi hotpot of say, Salem. Across nearly three hours of music, Demdike Stare enter intense portals of abstract yet weirdly connected atmospheric sound, invoking ancient pagan repetition and hauntingly fractured vocals amid distant wailing, whispering, and whitewashed synthetic noise. Forever tunneling into Kafka-esque conjunctions of confusion, isolation, and deeply abstract emotional yearning, it's a strident, groundbreaking epic — and a fine example of Modern Love's seemingly limitless drive to extract dazzling new ideas from electronic music's most darkly beautiful perimeters.