Review Summary: A successfully atmospheric album which tends to stumble on its own premise.
When I listen to Pale Ravine
, it is a constant reminder that music need not be overly technical or complicated to covey the message it was intended to deliver. It's hard to put exactly how Norwegian electronic/experimental duo Deaf Center's music sounds like into words which don't sound like they are unnecessarily cheesy or overdrawn, but it is easy to realize that the music they create is both relaxing, imaginative, and startlingly effective at delivering on the numerous influences which helped create it. Pale Ravine
is the debut full-length LP by Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland, the two gentlemen who make up the band, and it is an album which brings together the likes of neoclassical music and pure electronica to create an album which is undoubtedly enjoyable, easily accessible, and downright entrancing.
The passages of repeating piano pieces lay a fairly strong base for the rest of the music to adhere to, and on top of these brilliantly calming compositions lies a heavy dose of real-world samplings which range from broken machinery to old, beat up vinyls spinning on a dated record player. All these small touches add up to a bigger picture which really makes sense in a way which only such abstract pieces of music can. A heavy layer of computer-aided ambiance tips the scale in a more electronic direction, giving a refreshing new dimension to the sound of Pale Ravine
that helps keep things on track and the atmosphere thick throughout the running time. While the album suffers from being a bit too lengthy for its own good, most of the elements presented melt together into a drowning amalgam of slow, depressive pieces which hint at influences of dark ambient and even a pinch of psychedelic to keep the music flowing at a rate which avoids large moments of stagnant progression. However, this doesn't entirely keep out some smaller hints at repetitiveness when the listener really hopes to find a new piano hook or majestic turn in the song, but is instead greeted with the same old notes which have held the song together for the previous three minutes.
There is more to the music than you would gather upon first listen, making Pale Ravine
an album which demands your attention and really requires a keen ear to thoughtfully critique. The subtle nuances of the album, such as the tasteful addition of strings and the tendency of the ambient background noise to be produced with a heavier low-end at certain times really drives home the fact that when composing the album, Skodvin and Totland payed attention to detail. The influences of modern and classical theater become more and more vibrant, making a lot of the odd samplings make more sense than before, turning what at first appeared to be random noise into a cohesive unit. This won't change the fact that the album drags during numerous songs, but it shows that Pale Ravine
has loads of potential which, unfortunately, fails to break through.
When you objectively look at the album as a whole, not just a single part, the entire thing makes more sense than if you are to analyze it song by song, which makes me wonder why this album wasn't released as a one-track LP. The songs flow seamlessly into the next, and the atmosphere which is both depressing and warm at the same time is shocking in its effectiveness. Pale Ravine
is an entirely successful electronic/neoclassical album which delivers an almost hypnotic array of tracks that serve as a wholly effective piece of music, but one which really needs to be played when you are in the correct state of mind. Not perfect at all, but at times it almost seems like that is what Deaf Center was aiming for, because perfection, sometimes, isn't the most effective way of conveying a message.