Mind-Boggling, Drone-Sampling Electronica Haunts Our Nightmares

Demdike Stare
Tryptych
Modern Love

There’s no other way to put it: Tryptych, a collection of albums by Manchester duo Demdike Stare, is some seriously freaky shit.

The band, which consists of minimalist techno innovators Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty, spent the last year crafting three LPs worth of electronic music composed of samples from obscure sources: old film soundtracks, fuzzed-out Eastern European field recordings, Middle Eastern folk and 1980s Scandinavian industrial drone.

For the most part, the 33 songs collected on Tryptych‘s three albums — Forest of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing and Voices of Dust — fall into two categories. They’re either atmospheric psychedelic music or repetitive and complex dub techno. Even for listeners that aren’t terribly well-versed in dark ambient music (dubbed “hauntology” by music blogs), it’s obvious that Demdike Stare know their stuff.

On “Forest of Evil (Dusk)” — found on the first album — whispering voices and muddy static are overtaken by a relentless, arpeggiated synthesizer moan that sounds as though it was taken from the soundtrack to a long-forgotten horror film. This approach is pushed to its limit on tracks like the standout “Regolith,” on which Baltic folk guitars are paired with unearthly female wails and a thundering bass drone.

Some of the most intriguing music on Tryptych is found on the album’s more up-tempo tracks. The brooding “Bardo Thodol,” named after the Tibetan Book of the Dead, begins with a sample taken from a dated field recording of a Central Asian folk group and evolves into a danceable techno groove. The similarly-minded “Caged in Stammheim” turns a lurching, reversed bass drum and female vocals into a hazy dub beat.

That’s what makes Tryptych so interesting. The weirdest part of the album isn’t the creepy cult-referencing spoken word samples or the early analog electronic experiments — it’s the fact that the results are oftentimes so accessible.

It’s still hard to get past the freaky, though: The more eccentric moments will scare you shitless. (7/10)

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