Artist: The Implicit Order
Label: Wholeness Recordings
Keywords: Electronic, Ambient, Dark Ambient, Drone, Hauntology
Reviewer: Alex Spalding
This is an important album, and one I’m very pleased we received for review by request. Before I begin dissecting the music, I would like to first offer you it’s official description from the artist’s Bandcamp page:
“This album is dedicated to a friend named Sherry who was murdered by a drifter in the late 1980’s. I befriended Sherry at my store and would help her out with food & smokes as she was basically homeless. One late Summer night, she was picked up by a drifter and taken to a home and murdered. This album is a dedication and a cautionary tale to anyone who is down on their luck and looking for a place to belong. Watch your back and never trust a stranger. And, always look behind you…”
Another reviewer, Bob Georgeson, says:
“This is not the sort of music that one would play at a party, it may not even sit comfortably with a second listen, but it certainly is worthy of one serious listen, even if it is to remind ourselves that the world we live in can still be an evil place, and that great art is not just about entertainment, but enlightenment. A courageous, yet sensitive masterwork. Highly recommended…”
The first track is titled ‘Missing Youth’ — I think first of the milk cartons that once bore images of recently abducted or runaway children. We hear strings solemnly play into a sweeping darkness, an almost Gregorian sounding ambient cavern with a minimalism that is also touching. The ghosts of children dance and play in the shadows. Very haunting and unsettling, but also toward the end somehow strangely joyous, as the strings seem to lift just before they sustain and become a drone.
‘Daily Dull Lives’ is beautiful. It sounds as if Boards of Canada took a moment away from watching BBC nature documentaries to waste wistfully away in front of a reel of old, nostalgic home movies, dwelling on the past or maybe some old scar. I could imagine Robert Stack narrating over this, a story of a life cut short. There are choirs, a lullabic bell tone… there is a heavy atmosphere that refuses to brighten. Strings of dischord escalate and fall away, like passing trucks on a highway. The use of sounds, the artists sensibilities in weaving them into tapestry is impeccable on this album thus far.
The next piece is titled ‘Cast A Chill’, which it does, admirably. Bursts of freezing wind rattle windchimes. I get a sense of sitting on a porch swing, the air warning of impending storms, though of course in this album the sense is that the storm is more symbolic than literal. Sickly synths wobble nervously. Water is dripping. As the music goes along, it begins to feel moribund; the air has become static, the environment stagnant.
‘Every Year 1000’s Of Young People Disappear’ begins with a fading in of sounds that are almost tribal ambient, very dark and disturbing! And awesome, of course. There’s a hoarse laugh, a lot of vast space in the atmosphere, an escalating but always subtle gorgeous synth sequence. It feels like standing on a prairie out of time, an encroaching darkness encircling us. Breathtaking. By this point I have become sure that this artist has become one of my favourites. Choirs come up in the mix, so lovely with the harmonies… it’s at once surreal and familiar, a reflection of a natural world blended seamlessly with drawn, emotional, sensual ambiance. I keep thinking I hear Snow White in there as we approach the final couple of minutes or so. The laugh returns, as if to remind us that all we have experienced will soon come to an end.
Next is ‘A Hobo Spell’, with it’s strangely effected chanting harmonies and an onrush of several running water samples, pitchshifted. Listened to in a certain light, it almost sounds like an abstract take on showering… an eclectic showerscape. The sound profile changes just as I am writing that however… I’m always being thrown for a little bit of a loop any time I try to pin down what I’m hearing! Reed flutes, subtle tribalism… it ends in a whirlpool of sloshing and sucking. Ew! Just kidding, all is perfectly fine.
‘The I-75 Killer’ takes us further into the abyss with it’s reverse sampling and echoes… a darkscape approaches, and I’m reminded a little of Silent Hill. Just a lot of strange energy and sounds throughout this track, percussive noises knock around, screams that are very low, vocal samples and orchestration that remind me of a horror film soundtrack. A grumbling synth sequence enters, like a mind with no response to reason or emotional plea.
‘Small Towns Hold The Biggest Secrets’ sounds like you’re turning the dial on a radio that is reverberating out into dimensional folds. There is a spinning, dizzy orchestral pattern and a creepy, wonky piano straight out of The Overlook Hotel. Downtuned and bizarre sound on this…
… and then there’s ‘Sherry (Car Wheels On A Gravel Road)’, the longest track on the album. There are strings with a feeling of warmth and serenity, a low gushing span of wind in the background. Very ambient, with an inviting repose. Samples eventually come in, some of them funereal, grieving. The space expands into wide open choirs and hollow spaces, feeling like a hermitage. As always, the use of sound, subtleties of tone is quite perfect. The vocal samples, crying, etc. some might find heavy-handed, but I thought they added to the feel immensely. The guitar toward the end, low in the mix, was a very nice touch as well.
The ending piece is ‘Graveyard Dead’. Ambient textures and sounds of isolation… it sounds like a phone is ringing that no one is there to pick up. A world of emptiness.
In the artist’s description of the album from the top of the page, I feel the cautionary aspects, with their airs of distrust and an ending wink with what sounded like the tagline from a horror film or psychological thriller were maybe a misstep, though not one that greatly impacts the effect of the work. Even many of the track titles reinforce the concept of watching your back in this crazy world. It is good sense, but at the heart of the album is something more. The emotional sway behind the the artist’s dedication was of a personal significance and lent the album a weighted mood that The Implicit Order’s music was more than capable of mirroring, even in it’s frequent creepiness. While immersing myself in all of it, I came quickly to a sense that it was more genuine than your average album exploring themes of death, your typical memento mori; this album I felt served a dual function acting as both an introspect on the senselessness of violence, as well a private and solemn reflection on those who’ve died and left a hole in our lives. The music often pushes that vacancy amidst its sounds, as if there is something that has gone away that we cannot hear but only feel.
It is basic human compassion, I believe, that wins the day. We can mourn those lost while also realizing that violence begets violence, that the first victim of any act of senseless violence is the perpetrator of violence him/herself. It’s not a popular concept, but one I feel very strongly to be correct. As always, love… and a link at the bottom of the page.