Review Summary: A remarkably current album.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Look over your shoulder. Nothing. Of course there’s nothing. Breathe in. Hold the breath. Just in case there’s something around to hear. Fix your eyes forward. They flit to the side, instinctually. To look over your shoulder again. Slaves to the subconscious. But the neck remains rigid. Fix your eyes forward. Breathe out. Don’t look. What you don’t see can’t be there. Pull the blankets over your eyes.
Such is the nature of Soliloquy for Lilith, an album whose droning repetition of a nearly uniform cold, pulsating tone transcends the sonic medium to tap into an alien sense of primal fear. Soliloquy for Lilith is as much an emotion as it the mutating mechanical aural output of an inadvertent experiment with an electrical anomaly.
This album back-story is well worn: an unexpected equipment malfunction in several effects programs led to a shift in the pitch of sounds when a body approached. A happy accident, and the rest is history: Steven Stapleton had stumbled upon a new album. This particular happenstance has gained enough (relative) notoriety to have become functionally little more than a piece of interesting trivia to keep in the back of the mind as the droning soundscapes pulsate in waves of cold, unfamiliar tremors. It can be easy to forget that this same piece of trivia is yet another facet that has turned Soliloquy for Lilith into one of the most fascinating and endlessly original pieces produced under the dark ambient moniker.
Essentially, by waving his hands over these effects instruments, and thus altering their respective looped outputs, Stapleton has eradicated the perpetual boundary between melody and rhythm – the two have become one and the same. A pitch shift, generally speaking a melodic construction and a melodic construction alone, is determined and altered by a movement based strictly upon duration. Thus, tone and pitch cease to be the considerations that constitute themselves.
The mechanical nature underpinning Soliloquy for Lilith does not, then, denote an album created entirely by machine. It is not strictly the voice of an electric current, but instead the manipulation of technology to alter the most basic fundamentals of music theory. Stapleton’s hand (quite literally) remains at the core of the music, manipulating, shifting the swells of sound.
But such aesthetic considerations are ultimately rendered meaningless if the sounds themselves fail to stand up to scrutiny. Stapleton’s symphony of sinister ambiance holds up. Very likely by the same accidental virtue that led to its creation in the first place. It seems rather fitting that an album born from equipment malfunction and as such something almost impossible to replicate, would gain much of its virtue from the overwhelming individuality of the piece, the sense that something significant is happening every second, even as the auditory territory covered remains largely static.
Soliloquy for Lilith is uncomfortable, otherworldly. It fades in and out of consciousness over its hundred some odd minutes, rising from out of nowhere to paint images of embittered isolation before receding again into backdrop. There it worms into the subconscious. Whispers unheard messages, unsettles. Soliloquy for Lilith speaks of things wrong just out of sight, lurking around corners or bathed in deep shadow. So breathe in. Breathe out. Look over your shoulder. Of course, there’s nothing there.