Review: Ensemble Economique - Crossing the Pass, by Torchlight (Dekorder, 2011)
No surprises here for the fans of Brian Pyle’s genre-bending solo project: the Californian sound sculptor again succeeded to provide a thick, beat-driven ritualistic psychedelic soup much in the style of his previous LP, Psychical, but this time it’s even more droning, more mind-altering and more detailed. Pyle brings his game onto a new level while changing a few rules - subtly, but noticeably.
What the listener can notice while listening to the new LP is the complete lack of vocal samples - while on Psychical they were critical, often greatly contributing to the overall atmosphere of the track (like the heavy Jamaican accent blabber on “Red For the Sun”), on Crossing the Pass… the creation of syrupy atmospheres is provided by droning, snakelike synthesizer lines set against drum machine hip-hoppy half-beats which loop tirelessly throughout entire tracks, creating an inseparable sonic tapestry with multi-layered drones. The textures are even more layered than on the previous album, so it might be hard to get a clear image of the whole album during the first few listens (actually, it might be quite hard to get a totally clear view of this album ever, so textured it is). Crossing the Pass, by Torchlight sounds like someone secretly playing Lustmord records during a drugged-out hip-hop party, where everyone is too high on cough syrup to realize the dark, mysterious sounds coming from the speakers and intermingling with the beats are not their own brain’s creation, but someone else’s. The crowning moment of the album might be “To Feel the Night as It Really Is”, which, with its sampled (?) drum rolls and downery atmosphere sounds like a B-side by DJ Shadow at his most experimental and atmospheric.
Ensemble Economique walks the thin line between psychedelic drone, ritual ambient and instrumental hip-hop, doing the miracle of sounding like all of those genres at the same time while actually not sounding like probably anything else before him. EE is a more electronic, beat-based counterpart to Brian’s “main” band, Starving Weirdos. All hail the new king of psychedelic collages.