At seventeen tracks Scintilla is quite the epic journey, another of those consistent Tympanik Audio releases that demand a straight-through listen, with loving care lavished upon all aspects of the production.
[Release page] Sonnambula – Stendeck‘s last album released on Tympanik Audio back in 2009 – was something of a reference release for the label featuring all of its traditional hallmarks: crunchy beatwork, sci-fi pads, spacious ambience, dramatic tone and cinematic scale. Scintilla sees the formula still very much intact some thirty-odd releases down the line, and Alessandro Zampieri has refined his craft still further. At seventeen tracks Scintilla is quite the epic journey, another of those consistent Tympanik Audio releases that demand a straight-through listen, with loving care lavished upon all aspects of the production.
For example, Andrea Zampieri has been employed to provide further emotional impact to the proceedings by providing elongated, narrative and poetic titles to each piece. Whether it works or not is up for debate as in all honesty the primary effect of this technique is that the names simply become hard to remember and attach to individual tracks whilst listening, but the album is so seamlessly constructed and well paced that it hardly seems to matter.
Stendeck’s music constantly veers and swerves, accelerates, dives, soars. Don’t just sit in an armchair and listen to Scintilla, as the cover imagery suggests, this is late night, high speed driving music. “Hold my hand high in the sky ready for the deep dive” is a typical example of Scintilla‘s roller-coaster ride; the constantly shifting pace, the vast array of moods and strikingly at-odds textures. A bellowing bass drum pattern and growling pads underpin fuzzy, twisting distortions but halfway through the piece dissolves into almost twee melodic keys for a few moments, brightening proceedings before it comes to a moody, simmering close. Better still is the follow-up, “Feel the flames burning inside me,” its motoring, thunderous bass beats and scrunched percussion framing a much more memorable melodic hook, and then better still “Catch the midnight girl,” all clonking, heavily syncopated beats and glowing synth pads.
It’s easy for long-haul albums like this to begin to meander and drift, losing the listener’s interest in the process, but the material on Scintilla actually strengthens as it progresses, each piece with as much or more impact than the last. At times it would make the perfect partner to a gritty crime thriller – all birds-eye panning views over midnight city streets and skyscrapers but there are also slower, typically melancholic tracks scattered through the album as well.
The album’s greatest moments come in waves, one of the first beginning with the trilling and ringing of bells, followed by some incredibly dramatic and thoughtful composition and slightly unnerving percussion (is someone knocking on the door?) in “Swimmers in a sleepless hour.” This progresses into the reversed piano keys and belting percussion of the sparkling, jewel encrusted “Voiceless wishes flicker in the shattered mist,” followed by a high-speed chase over rooftops in the gleaming “Six door bedroom.”
Another highpoint begins well towards the end of the album as solemn piano, strings and burred pads sweep across the screen (“Last Night An Angel Fell On a Motorway”) to introduce a highpoint within a highpoint (“Thieves of Watercolour Memories”) as a calm after the storm introduction, siren squalls and city noise conjure more top-down views of glowing city lights. The smashed beatwork then breaks apart to reveal a shunting, shifting rhythm bereft of traditional percussion and bass, salted with sifted hi-hats, sounding for all the world like the ambient dub of The Orb’s Baghdad Batteries or Orblivion before a massive, pounding crunch of drums kick in, bright piano phrases woven into the mix throughout. There’s a tight, narrative structure to tracks like this and the album as a whole that make the poetic track titles somehow appropriate.
Finally, “The Silence After This” adds portentous, almost elven vocals into a mix of strings and echoing, half-time beats before dissolving in metallic feedback. The album could have happily ended there, but the brain-melting cacophony of “Crimson Clouds Cascade” is actually the final track on the album, and while it sits perfectly within the remit of Tympanik Audio’s releases, it doesn’t quite work here.
Minor quibbles like this aside, Scintilla is another fantastic release from Stendeck and the Tympanik Audio imprint that further strengthens their position as providers of thoughtful, extended, propulsive IDM odysseys.