REVIEW: Vampire Nation - "Wise-ta-Nech [Pre-European Africa]"

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Wise-ta-NechFredrik Von Hamilton, Pittsburgh's half-century vampire, returns with the follow-up release to Bes-na-Maut. This time releasing on CD, Fredrik's improved his style and abilities greatly since his last step up. While Bes-na-Maut applied a club/house style to the music, Wise-ta-Nech, alternately named Pre-European Africa, instead takes up an ambient/trance stand. An extreme improvement over VN's last release, Wise-ta-Nech is an excellent release to continue the legacy that Fredrik has begun.

The improvements are not only in abilities here, either. Released once again by Hexagon Records in conjunction with J-Bird Records, Wise-ta-Nech shows great gains over Vampire Nation's last release in the way of mixing, mastering and production. Overall it is a higher quality work than Bes-na-Maut - shown not only in the fact that Bes-na-Maut was released on tape and Wise-ta-Nech was released on CD, but in the quality of the sounds you're going to hear as far as application goes as well.

Wise-ta-Nech opens similarly to Bes-na-Maut, with a monologue. It has the feel of something recorded off of the History Channel, a discussion of a ship lost to sea and the treasures that went down with it. The mention of the Peacock Throne, a throne of solid gold and jewels stolen many centuries ago by England's treasure ships, is something I could remember hearing about when I was doing my nerd-style high school reading assignments (I have a love for history and mythology).

The album thereafter rolls into a very comfortable and bass-laden Business of Love. Fredrik's handling of rhythms and application of arrangement is much cleaner and more distinct than it was with the Bes-na-Maut release. Reminiscent of work by AFX or Schpongle, it is a tranceable set of grooves and synthetic overtones. The rest of the album is similar in comparison to this style, occasionally slipping into a more scathing series of soundscapes such as that found during Business With the King of Timbuktu which uses heavy handed percussion and a near-scraping bass loop to scrape the listener from the trance state previously laid by works like the previous track, The Possibility of African History Verdict From Evidence.

Some of the tracks are simple and meant to just flow. Others, are more rhythmic and groove-centric. Songhay Life on track 4 is an example of this rhythmic track. While the synthesizer chorales and flowing is there, we also have a deep bass line that gives it a very funky and groovy feel. A nice song indeed, but just before a minute and a half into it there is a toy piano lick that is thrown in that not only doesn't belong, can effectively shock the listener out of the song.

Meanwhile on the next track, Black Californians, he applies this sudden-addition idea with more success. The overall track is again heavy with bass (Fredrik so loves his grooving rhythms) and is more minimal than the others at the outset. Synth riffs applied at just about a minute into the song are wonderful laid into the rhythmic movements and a few piano additions add to the overall effect. And just as the flow is comfortable and precise, at just around 1:45 Fredrick throws in a powerful female vocal (not so much words as utterings) and a sudden flat-back drum segment that lasts but seconds. This time it works well, riveting into the track with power and finesse.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with Vampire Nation's new addition to their discography. It shows a definite increase in musical ability, production and mastering. Much better than Bes-na-Maut and stunningly arranged, Wise-ta-Nech is an ambient/trance album that fans of AFX (Aphex Twin), Schpongle, Ranka and others would definitely enjoy. My compliments to Fredrik for an excellent addition to my trance collection.

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