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Amalaise: The Twinning Pools

September 5, 2012

With a nod to “the spacier side of the Cocteau Twins,” Beth Brown and Jason Sloan launch into a set of “low-fi ambient” pieces under the moniker Amalaise. The Twinning Pools is a carefully curated stew of field recordings, processed vocals, murky ambient excursions and a somber, veiled atmosphere. What stands out about this release is the movement it makes from noise-oriented sound experiments to a less edgy, almost relaxing framework. Early on, the sound is muddy and a bit gloom-stricken, the thickness of the duo’s low-fidelity intentions rendering it a little bass-heavy; distorted voices and an industrial pallor dominate. The second track, “Like A Barn Dead Horse,” sloughs in with dragging feet, the sound quickly molded into a pulse that throbs under somber but lightweight chords. A chant-like vocal sample floats in and at this point comes the recognition that we’ve been lead into very interesting sonic territory and we need to pay attention–attention that is immediately reward by the jerky stitch-work of “Body Ladder.” Repeating vocal snippets, the churn of machinery, dense clatters of pure noise, and under it all a vague sense of cohesive rhythm keeping it from bursting at the seams. This is as deep into experiment territory as Amalaise choose to go, and it’s a definite barrier to casual listening. It’s work, and it’s worth it. At this stage, however, the tide turns. Beginning with the liquid gurgles of “Piscine,” The Twinning Pools softens up a touch and glides over toward the ambient side of the room. Even the muted voices of “What the Living Do” are accompanied by warm dronework. By the time you’re deep into the 10-minute-long title track, the work takes on a sort of mellowed post-rock glow without losing its freaky/funky sound pedigree. The percussion at the beginning lays down a sort of urban-tribal groove over sighing vocal pads and big synth washes. The motion from near-chaos to near-order throughout The Twinning Pools makes perfect and pleasant sense. There is a total journey going on here.

The Twinning Pools  is a release that needs to be given a solid, deep listen. Between Brown’s work in culling micro-sounds out of everyday objects and Sloan’s always spot-on manipulations, there’s a metric ton of stuff happening at any given moment, all integral pieces, however slight, of the whole. The experimental aspects of the disc are intriguing to dive into, to look at how they work to create the overarching tone; the ambient/post-rock side is a cool drift to ease into, and it retains that depth of interest. A must-hear debut from Amalaise.

Available from Slo-Bor.

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