Undermathic :: Indistinct Face (Tympanik Audio)

Undermathic’s Indistinct Face combines the organic sound of his debut album with the exquisite sound design of 10:10PM but substitutes earthiness and vigour with vibrant, crystalline and zen-like beauty.

Maciej Paszkiewicz’s last Undermathic album proper was the sweeping epic 10:10PM released on Tympanik Audio on 10/10/2010, and since then there’s been a worthy but uneven, digital only compilation of unreleased material. 10:10PM represented a huge evolutionary step Undermathic’s sound design and composition over his intense but slightly static debut, so hopes were high that his next full length would see a similar evolution. Cue Indistinct Face, another suitably majestic fifty-seven minute epic that does indeed represent a major step forward in sound design, hold its own unique place in Undermathic’s canon.

Paszkiewicz has lost none of his talent for creating music that’s incredibly multi-layered with a level of deep focus that one can become totally lost in. All the elements that made his previous work so successful are present right from the off, with “Still On The Border” a bold statement of intent that should be manna from heaven for lovers of previous Undermathic output. A dense and complex layering of sultry strings, moody ambient washes, crackling percussion and cascades of jewel encrusted wind-chimes are bound together by dramatic, propulsive melodies and angelic choral vocals.

Indistinct Face returns in part to that distinctly organic sound of Return To Childhood but substitutes earthiness for vibrant, crystalline beauty. What it sadly lacks, however, is that marvelous variety that keeps 10:10PM consistently interesting from start to finish. There are only so many times that you can listen to yet another track of jangling wind chimes and glockenspiels coupled with a soupy haze of synthesizers and glitched distortion before the formula starts to stagnate and the album blur into homogeneity. For every track like “I Will Show You These Places” that exudes a cinematic scale and narrative depth, “Colorize” that brings a new timbre and tone to the table, or nice touch like “Our Desires” which reverses ‘Indistinct Face”s soupy textures in a rewinding blur, there’s a “Simply Ask,” “Three Different Worlds” or, most surprisingly, the title track that needlessly noodle or retread old ground, getting a little lost in the process.

Luckily the second half of the album feels fresher and more varied than the first. “Stones” is a breath of perfumed air as lighter atmospheres pervade, jingling bells and flecks of brightly coloured neons taking us back to the city street hustle and bustle that made 10:10PM such a delight. “Hope In Their Eyes” takes this even further, with a tinkling of wind-chimes and metallic keys that edges into Björk falling down the stairs territory, moody strings and punchy snares adding drama and gravitas to the piece.

The finest moments are those where Undermathic really nails the dramatic tone with cinematic melodies that tug at the heartstrings. “Distinct Premonition” does this with particular aplomb when, between bouts of glass-crunching, bottle rattling and cascading FX, it collapses into twinkling breaks that fall into a fog of reverb below. Paszkiewicz still doesn’t quite know how to successfully begin or end an album experience entirely successfully, though, as the album both abruptly begins and ends with one of his looped verse/chorus structures with no intro or outro.

Nevertheless, Indistinct Face does get full marks for being a full on, consistent experience and is a sterling addition to Undermathic’s discography, the zen garden imagery on the cover a particularly effective reflection of the rippling and highly eventful experience contained within.

Indistinct Face is available on Tympanik Audio. [Release Page]

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