Review: Axel Helios – Drichtel // EXCLUSIVE PREMIERE

Canadian producer Axel Helios releases his Drichtel EP this week, via his Shabu imprint. The Waveform Transmitter’s Ste Knight takes a listen, and offers up an exclusive premiere of Axel’s track, The Abyss.

In a recent review, our Alasdair struggled to place a release that lacked context. While he found the content well-produced, he found that the music would have benefited from being accompanied by, well, something…This poses an interesting question. Does music that we know has previously been accompanied by a visual stimulus work with this prior knowledge? Axel Helios‘ forthcoming release, Drichtel, can perhaps help answer this conundrum.

Drichtel was originally conceived as the audio aspect of an AV installation that Axel performed at the Societe des Arts Technologiques, which is based in Montreal, during his tenure as resident artist. This audio aspect has been lifted from the performance and re-mastered, allowing it to be listened to via conventional means, as opposed to the ‘speaker dome’ experience for which it was initially intended.

Listening to the four tracks on the EP, it is encouraging to discover that the visual counterpart is not required in order to either provide context for the compositions or to enjoy them as they are (which is perhaps more important). The tracks are perfectly capable of providing their own narrative and, in the opinion of this writer, do not necessarily require visual accompaniment. It may enhance the experience, but the lack thereof is not detrimental.

The EP opens with the beatless ambience that is The Rapture, a track that starts us out on our journey into the depths of an ocean environment, a notion that is reinforced as we travel through the four tracks. The title of the opener alludes to themes of death, or at least transition into another realm in an eschatological sense. The realm, in this instance, being an aquatic one. As we descend into the inky blue, a sense of foreboding meets us, instilled by the swelling strings and panning synth stabs.

Take a look through our review archive, here.

Pretty soon, our submerged soul grows accustomed to the murky surroundings, and we catch a glimpse of what surrounds us; an underwater domain rich with swaying aquatic flora and fauna. The occasional skittering beats of The Cult enter the mix, like schools of Neons swimming nervously by, the Atlantis in which they exist never quite providing complete solitude or protection, while the shadows hold something just out of sight that we may well prefer not to encounter. We descend further as the final third of the track opens the underwater world before us.

The Fall brightens the somewhat dark melancholy and confusion that the previous two compositions have fostered. An arpeggiating synth conjures images of bubbles rising from the depths of the seas, creating a sparkling spume on the surface. Plankton propels itself around our heads in almost unnoticeable micro-movements, the minute jets they create mirrored by nuances of the track.

The fourth and final production on the EP takes the form of The Abyss. We make good our escape from the depths to which we have previously sunk, the thunderous percussion, that enters the mix at the midpoint, conveying a sense of speed. We rise back to the surface of our ocean habitat amidst a hail of choral pads, blistering breakbeats and growling basslines. We are reborn.

With this latest release, Axel illustrates that while sight and sound are mutually beneficial, they can work perfectly when presented separately. The EP is successful in taking the listener on a journey, which is the intention of productions as cinematic as this. The album enforces a distinctly separate set of emotions with each track, culminating in the excitement of The Abyss, which we exclusively premiere for you today. Listen, below, and head here to pre-order the release.

Author: Ste Knight

Editor at The Waveform Transmitter. Lover of acid basslines, cavernous kick drums, and dark rooms. Cut his teeth to Surgeon's blistering techno assault at T-Funkshun in Liverpool and hasn't stopped for breath since.

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