Review Summary: Dark ambient for a late night walk around the city...
I discovered Wordclock through his collaboration with Robin Finck on the NOCT
soundtrack a couple of years ago. The resulting LP was a strong mix of ambient and noise that melded brooding synths with eerie, effects-soaked guitars. I quickly looked him up and found another great album, Self Destruction Themes
. The nostalgic, often somber atmosphere created by both quiet and soaring moments was enthralling. The Portuguese composer really knows how to build up tension. Luckily, out of the blue, news appeared regarding a 3rd solo record that would come out before the end of the year.
This leads us to Heralds
, crafted after a long journey through Porto, London and Berlin, where Wordclock recorded acoustic instruments as well as field recordings to further manipulate in the studio. Overall, there are several influences molding the LP: besides its ambient nature, there are light jazz and lounge intrusions interspersed throughout. The three part suite, ‘Bell Ringing’ offers a satisfying yet unsettling close-up to what the man wanted to create as a whole. There is a moody trumpet playing along the rather broken rhythms of ‘Bell Ringing III’, however, all the samples and lone piano leads set a bizarrely relaxing tone. Meanwhile, the wavy pads of ‘Bell Ringing II’ bring forth an ethereal contrast to this counterpart, where you can lose yourself in the soothing vibes. Moreover, ‘Bell Ringing I’ shares a "limp" beat, overtaken halfway by cellos and bleak bass synths. It reminisces some of Ulver’s minimalistic-meets-classical approaches on Messe I.X-VI.X
or even Shadows of the Sun
Further on, this rather brief journey (for an ambient record) leads us into mournful ditties such as ‘Beatrice’s Euphoria’ or ‘St. George’. The haunting voices manipulated behind the droning notes are uncanny, especially when accompanied by violins. Everything sounds like a eulogy set to a bleak soundtrack. I find the fading latter half more powerful, because it creates a visceral setting (perfect for the abstract scenes in Twin Peaks
IMO) as if time stopped and you're blank staring at the walls. ‘St. George’ starts in a similar way to previous cuts, having violins and cellos engage in a discordant, classical-inspired theme, still you’re quickly left hearing their wails instead of harmonious melodies. They punctuate from time to time later on, nevertheless the background keyboards join in like someone started playing them in the adjacent room. I can easily imagine this song present on the Bioshock OST. From here, Heralds
splinters into short tunes acting like a prolonged coda. ‘Where Mercy Lives’ relies on a slightly dissonant trumpet and an icy beat, whereas the distorted sound scapes give way to the lush piano chords of ‘Thames Does Flow’.
The title track closes this dark trip with a sparse, lounge-like bass alongside high pitched keys and thrilling samples. It’s like you’re stranded in a story whose finale is expectedly sad. The cinematic value of Heralds
is impressing, especially if you are a fan of dramas or psychological thrillers (in this case with an urban touch) and the music accompanying them. I must admit I wasn’t sure this shift from the mainly electronic predecessor, still the blend of acoustic and digital is really compelling. Luckily, after a couple of listens I was totally drawn into this adventure and I am looking forward to hearing what Wordclock will release next.