Aptly titled, Marsen Jules’ Beautyfear is a release with two distinct tones. On the beauty side, there are luscious, warm pads drifting in classically cloud-like fashion. On the fear side there are shadowy, edge-of-industrial constructs and dark chords. And while for this listener the lighter, warmer side sounds and feels stronger than its counterpart, Beautyfear overall is a solid hour of music and sensation. Jules opts to intertwine the two sides of his equation rather than making any sort of light-to-dark shift, or vice versa, and I can’t fully decide how I feel about that. On one hand, it would be interesting to hear that shift made slowly, gliding from the higher side down into the grit. On the other, the release as it stands moves you dynamically in and out of these spaces, making sure you’re not just lolling off into sedated-listener land. The heavier pieces can pack a pleasing punch. “Beautyfear II” (the pieces are just numbered) comes in a series of almost bestial metallic snarls, big hammer-falls of sound punching down over a hushed and haunted drone base. “VI” follows a similar path, with swells of moody pads, but the air is more suspenseful, the bass end thicker and more menacing. “XI” paces itself off with a strident military cadence that’s loaded with drama. This one is soundtrack-worthy–but the film would need to be shot in stark black and white. But, again, I find myself more engaged with the quiet side of Beautyfear. I get readily lost in the purely gentle, almost minimal flow of “VIII.” Here, the sounds glide into and off of one another and Jules makes excellent use of the not-quite-silent moments between pads, that space between breaths. It flows into “IX,” which is a big, airy and panoramic thing built on long-held chords crafted in sonic silk. The string-like sounds in “IV” feel almost romantic, and their tone is classic ambient. The movement on this track has a liquid sense as the layers shift and roll. The harmonies at play are beautiful.
Beautyfear is a very deep release that loops with perfect ease. The light-and-dark dynamic plays out well, and Jules is obviously well-versed in both sides of his style. Individual pieces are relatively short, with the longest clocking in at just over seven minutes, but the transition between tracks is smooth and there’s no tactile break to the flow. Put it on, let it play, enjoy.
Available from Oktaf.