REVIEW: Apollon – “Aleatorical”

By Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chain Border

AleatoricalMartin Lee-Stephenson is a lost soul in search of some sort of purpose, judging by this collection of stranded, often purposeless vignettes of experimental noise and coldwave. Brutal at times, unnervingly demented most of the way, Aleatorical searches for redemption through its sampled chanting (mostly Middle Eastern) and the tapestries of quirky soundscapes Lee-Stephenson weaves around them. Let the listener beware: following his journey, one will indeed be feeling the need for a straightjacket thereafter.

Scorpion Factory pt3 begins with a cacophony of twitters, demonic garble and tribal beats that sounds like a shrieking locust party, particularly annoying at six-plus minutes. Kathumi ushers in the chanting samples that remind one of the extraterrestrial code discovered in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Pretty clever, one is tempted to think at first. Monad immediately dispels that feeling with its warped shoop shoop shoop drive that is pure madness. Fear of the Dark features funky digital that again leads the listener to believe Lee-Stephenson is going to let us off the hook of his loony kitsch, but he quickly stymies himself with his pointedly disturbed jagged beats. In a way, this is the good art he is striving for, because it certainly implies the paranoia of the song's title, but herein lies the paradox; Lee-Stephenson has the ability to create an actual song, but refuses to; instead celebrating the purity of the prayer chants he clings to throughout this project by boffing them to death.

Nirvankaya features an air duct quality with continued morphed beats that are catchy for a second, then devolve for this 8:17 odyssey of temple-pounding interchange. At the five minute mark is a hammering groove that rewards the listener for the abuse he/she has endured to this point, only to be served rotor noise that leaves a pissed-off feeling about this overlong song. Halle Bop and Lilith is a coldwave interlude that slips away as if you've barely heard it into Rape of the Lock, more rolling warps which end with a solid beat. Anyone noticing a trend here? Samsara boasts a loop of the most soothing chant on the entire project that unfortunately loses cred after a solid 5:13 stream.

At this point, Aleatorical gets even more mean-spirited, if it can be possible. Isaac the Blind is a twenty-second spiteful beat crunch that is the precursor to Opening the Veil, a chaotic motorgrind that tweaks the neurons and induces pure anger in the listener, even with the surprise dance beat at the song's end. Questions of King Milanda, however, is the closest thing to a true song on this disc; a trip-hop head bobber that is nevertheless scraped by Lee-Stephenson's caustic samples.

Coffin Lid, which strives to be artistic, is a waste of four minutes with its ear-pricking thrumming and distortion, while Still Numb is appropriately titled; an echoing chant twang that nearly makes the listener miss what is actually a snazzy up-and-down groove. Another American Flag is bitter coldwave that practically spits upon its subject matter, but at 4:35? We get the point. I've Been Here Before gives the listener a pure headache (assuming he/she has made it this long) with its fly buzzing rumpus.

Heirophant, however, is interesting with its sparkling sample, yet the doom tempo and noticeable homage to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (albeit briefly) leaves a blustery, wide-eyed feeling, especially with the raising synths that are unmistakably parallel to Alan Howarth's Halloween II score. Hathoor is hilarious in its obviousness, a cheeky tweak with a metal song that is merely three seconds backed-up repeatedly, but fortunately Lee-Stephenson wisely makes this an appreciated thirty-eight second joke which he only-too-late seems to have learned. The epic grandeur of the thirteen minute Love, Wisdom and Will is Lee-Stephenson having finally reached his quest for whatever it is he's sought. The first three minutes is a hollow echoing of an opera sample, his most inspired moment on Aleatorical. The following ten minutes is near silence with a very subliminal hiss, indicating Lee-Stephenson has found his peace through the path of lunacy preceding it.

Aleatorical will undoubtedly aggravate most listeners. Perhaps there are kindreds out there who will relate to the message Lee-Stephenson is trying to convey, hedonistic as it may be for most of the trip, yet the hopeful dénouement of Love, Wisdom and Will indicates Lee-Stephenson may be ready to exorcise whatever demons possessed him to create such a blistering opus of dreck.

Contact Information:
Post: D.O.R., PO Box 1797, London, E1 4TX, England
Phone: (44) 20 7702 7842
Fax: (44) 20 7790 0764
E-Mail: info@apollon.co.uk
Web: www.apollon.co.uk

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