Recently there's been some criticism scattered over the web that most everything coming out of the Tympanik Audio camp sounds precisely like something that would come out of the Tympanik Audio camp, pejoratively taking aim at a label whose output has occasionally been a bit same-y over the past couple years in spite of the fact that most all of said output has been quite entertaining nonetheless. Chicago artist Candle Nine seeks to throw that perception into the shredder and then cram it into the listener with a glorious amount of feedback. If you think you know what to expect with his debut release, The Muse In The Machine, you're in for a surprise because this candle is burning at both ends and the result brings as much heat as it does light.
Thus far only known for appearances on compilations such as an IDMforums release and the well received Emerging Organisms series upon which Tympanik has built its reputation, as well as a guest shot on Ad·ver·sary's A Bright Cut Across Velvet Sky, the enigmatic individual operating under the moniker Candle Nine espouses a musical knowledge rooted in more acoustic styles that translate quite well into unbridled technological soundscapes which run the gamut from coolly detached to furiously focused.
As you listen to The Muse In The Machine it never becomes evident that this is an artist who may not yet have a complete command of the sonic language with which he is trying to assert his instrumental voice and it is actually quite remarkable how well he is establishing his sound through a studious understanding of the works of such classic acts as Gridlock and Converter within this specific genre. What's most interesting are the instances where a song or movement seems less programmed and almost organic. Take the second number, "Penumbra," titled to imply a peripheral shadow not as dark or as strong as shadows cast by other, greater forces. The track asserts an individual sound even as it leans heavily upon its influences. Understated clicking gives way to a burst of percussive malaise, a la the Cevin Key/Mark Spybey collaboration, Download. Then the noise melts away temporary adding light ambient textures which subtly build until the harsh and glitchy rhythm returns, this time more refined and meant to accentuate the mood so cleverly established.
"Raison D'Etre" introduces a subtle melody over bass burnouts and luscious synth play. There's a great ebb and flow to the track that leaves the listener wanting more once its five and a half minute run time winds down. "Icarus Descending" seems a curious name for a song with extravagant atmosphere and a driving, glitchy rhythm. It would seem the wings adorning his back were much more resilient than we were led to believe as the music takes flight and glides along beautifully. Synthetic strings open "Kerianne's Spine" until a surprisingly standard beat that almost seems three decades removed leads the listener through a labyrinthine journey of rise and fall that comes across as graceful and elegant even as the seams threaten to dissolve and separate the intricately woven fabric of this number. The set ends with a startling nine and a half minute number that nearly dissolves while you desperately cling to its hauntingly mercurial progression. Toward the end the longing for a cohesive resolution becomes almost unbearable and the listener is rewarded with a delightful piano fade-out unencumbered by the hovering static and threats of chaos.
The album finishes with two remixes. Access To Arasaka tackles "Wintermute" in a manner befitting the original artist's intent while expanding the track's scope with some electrifying moments of pure sonic splendor. "R5-D50-R8," on the other hand, is vastly improved upon by Autoclav1.1 adding a a rhythm that isn't too overwrought to balance out with the piano and wispy atmosphere. While the original track meandered a bit too much and ended up seeming overlong Tony Young's mix is strikingly concise and provides an excellent punctuation mark to the entire set.
Mostly eschewing the acoustic for the more avant garde electronic it can't be denied Candle Nine certainly has found The Muse In The Machine. One can only hope that this muse continues to inspire him since, based on such a strong debut, it will be interesting to see him develop and progress beyond what he's already accomplished with this work, particularly if he manages to expand his somewhat limited array of sounds on display here. Yet, refreshingly, Candle Nine recognizes his limits and his listeners' limited patience and doesn't try to fill an eighty minute CD. As such, The Muse In The Machine is absolutely worth your time and investment.