Astral Darkness – Surreal Dreams – Album Review
After a moment of slight hesitation, I was suddenly a lot more sure that I loved what Astral Darkness has put together. The opening of “Pulsing Star” leans itself towards the quickly-solved mystery of ‘am I about to listen to an amateur or a pro?’ within the independent electro-scene. Astral Darkness…admit it…you know on the other end of those speakers we’re all wondering for those first sixty-three seconds of Surreal Dreams – and then it all becomes clear; this is going to be a completely intense amount of fun with wild, experimental and textured layers of sound weaving beautifully in & out. Not only does the opening tune remind me a lot of where my own music tends to roam, it sounds like in general Astral Darkness and I have a lot in common in terms of what makes music captivating to our own ears. “Pulsing Star” gets completely electro-jammin around three-minutes in when the beat comes in and just takes this whole track right to another level of groovin’ circuitry – excellent opening to this album through what’s eventually revealed to be a completely masterful build-up & pay-off on this first track.
Looking down the barrel of eleven more songs to follow that are ALL over five & a half minutes long, you can get a real sense of what’s to follow in terms of structure & assembly from “Descending Pattern” following up the first track, and somewhat assume that Astral Darkness will be the master of addition & subtraction throughout these electro-compositions. A slightly darker-sound on “Descending Pattern” – I’m starting to wonder if he uses some of the same equipment we use here at sleepingbagstudios like the Roland Fantom or 909…possibly even the weird little noise-box thingy we ordered from Australia. I can never remember what that thing is called, but it fills in the gaps so incredibly well, and whatever the haunting noise sampled into the background of “Descending Pattern” has that same rad effect. You notice when it drops out at the end for sure…it was like the Dude’s rug…it really tied this room together.
I like how each combination still maintains something new to offer in sound, and how just when you think there might not be enough in a song like “Moondance,” Astral Darkness kicks it up a notch without ever over-complicating. Everything comes through wonderfully clear and production stands out just about as much as the ideas and performance do. It works the same way when you feel like you’ve just about had enough of a certain sound, Astral Darkness will take it away…the instincts are incredibly tight in the song-writing. By the time it’s brought back around into the mix, it becomes like, everything you wanted to hear all over again. “Moondance” rides through some otherworldly electro-terrain, with clever shifts in sound occurring all over the place to keep you completely captivated from the lefts to the rights.
Each of these songs, like “Dee Phazed” or the following “Crystal Forest,” or any of the tracks on Surreal Dreams really…each of them play like an entire album contained within a single song! I can potentially hear there would be a few rowdies out there that would want the changes to come faster or the build-up to pile-on more quickly – I say enjoy the ride. Things shift so subtly on “Dee Phazed” but the groove is sooooooooo thick, dense and engaging…it’s a hypnotic rhythm & beat that work incredibly well. “Crystal Forest” has a terrific grind to its energy and vibrant life in its pulse; one of the most intense on the album, everything about this song feels closer and ten-percent bigger than the rest. Astral Darkness continues to impress and find new ways to make these rhythms groove in entirely innovative ways – and no matter how long any build-up might be, if you ask me the pay-off is ALWAYS there.
Germán Pavelek is the man behind these magnificent soundscapes and extraordinarily-assembled electro-rhythms – give this guy some credit, he’s done an awesome job on Surreal Dreams and every inch of his efforts make for audible victories all throughout the album. “Spectrum” pounds out an intense beat and alarm-style rhythm, becomes danceable and groove-laden the next…and all so incredibly fluidly…again, the art of addition & subtraction masterfully demonstrated by Germán Pavelek.
Ironically, the album brightens up a little bit with “Wicked Creature.” The wild electro-circuits are firing on all-cylinders throughout this intense electrified-ditty…another standout for production and mixing, this track takes it all to another level around the third-minute in and creates a solid second-half that feels totally unique to the first. In terms of structure, assembly and threading things together though – it doesn’t get any bigger than it does in “Action To Reaktion,” which feels like it takes you into the fringe of other genres outside of electro as well to find its magic sounds & samples. Great uplifting energy to the vibe in “Action To Reaktion” – can’t help but dig a beat as smooth as this becomes; deconstructed by the ending, it leads perfectly into “Magnetic Fields.” One of my favourite electro-rhythms on Surreal Dreams, “Magnetic Fields” rips through glitches & switches all while maintaining a highly memorable melody that’s completely enjoyable to the ears. It’s like the best of both worlds for those of you out there that can’t play your IDM around your pop-loving girl/boyfriend…you both win on an idea captured as well as it is on “Magnetic Fields.”
If any of them, I’d say that “No Return” took the longest amount of time to grow on me…this might have been the one track I felt like didn’t quite move enough for me, despite a massive hook in the overall rhythm. There’s no denying that…it’s a big one and certainly mesmerizing but I felt like I needed a little more from this one in comparison to the way the rest of the songs have shifted their dynamics around.
But maybe…maybe just maybe…maybe Germán Pavelek laid-up a soft-one to set up hitting the next one straight out of the park – “Darkest Sky” is stunning. Recorded in a different texture, tone, style, beat, atmosphere…you name it…this is a winning combination for Astral Darkness right here. Beautiful melody and just stunningly gorgeous in its demeanour & mood…this is as inviting as electro-music can get…I could listen to this enchanting & sweet-sound for days on end. Deliciously simple, spread-out, excellent rain-sounds filling it all in…smart moves here in the late stages of Germán’s Surreal Dreams.
The transitions to the end track and how it begins are kind of breathtaking really. I’m not sure if I got this like everyone else did, but after the rain from the “Darkest Sky,” it’s like someone had control of the faucet that controlled the rain and turned it almost-off at the beginning of “Drops In The Abyss.” Then, playfully dripping away, these drips begin to melt, shift and morph into bright keys, and eventually the beat drops in to top it all off. Germán Pavelek – you sir…have got my attention…I really like the smooth layout and the way you approach your music in Astral Darkness… Surreal Dreams has been a massive pleasure to listen to and an extraordinary journey into spectacular ideas in sound.
Find out more about this excellent electro-wizard at the Astral Darkness official page here: http://www.astraldarkness.com/