Review Summary: The excitement of a thunderstorm, distilled in minimal techno.
It’s astonishing how tensely The Worm at the Core
initially presents itself. Dense, rumbling ambience builds up to a short yet razor-sharp crescendo all within the first 70 seconds, creating an almighty wall of sound that pricks the nape hairs and draws the air out the lungs. Afterwards, naturally (and perhaps thankfully), comes the release: piercing strings give way to the sounds of rain and thunder, and with it, the endorphin rush of breathing once more. The sense of anticipation that thunderstorms bring is expertly woven into the fabric of ambient techno that Scuba Death (Ricardo Donoso) associates himself; however, largely speaking the execution is more covert than ‘Paradox of Finitude’ might allude to.
Scuba Death could quite easily have opted for the oft-travelled approach of bookending each track with stormy field recordings to develop the theme, but after the introduction, soundbites are used very sparingly. ‘Cracks in the Shield’ deviates from the introductory focus on ambience to concentrate on a minimalistic techno sound – one which is, however, loaded with imagery. Four-to-the-floor bass thumps ground the piece, while ice-cold droplets dance with crashing waves, ominous cello hits, granular swells and other assorted paraphernalia that, through the magic of thematic association, either freshen up or statically charge the track at any given point. Similar approaches are taken on ‘A Panic Rumbling Beneath’ and closer ‘The Scheme of Things,’ although where the former’s slower pace allows Donoso to develop crescendos, the latter makes use of a faster bass pattern to imbue a sense of urgency, something largely absent from the rest of the album. A lack of urgency works in much of the album’s favour, however: ‘Mortality Salience’ brings in more of the crushing ambience that made The Worm at the Core
’s beginnings so arresting, shrouding the plodding, slightly psychedelic drumming that underpins the track with an imposing, creeping sense of gloom (one which continues into ‘Senescence’). The Worm at the Core
is a wonderfully absorbing record despite its relative brevity, its occasionally ugly approach to one of nature’s most striking phenomena an intoxicating one.