Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Mystifying Oracle - The Kiffed EP


As I have no doubt mentioned before, I have long been a fan of those ambient masterminds from Oregon, Austere. I have been fortunate enough to have worked with these gents in the past (our Evergone CD remains one of those of which I am most proud) and am always pleased when they release new material, be it as Austere or under the guise of one of their various side projects, such as The Mystifying Oracle. I was particularly pleased by the latter's freshman offering, Quintesscence (fussed over here), so I was very excited to hear that they would be putting out a new CD EP.

It is quite a change of pace.

While Quintesscence presented a world of deep, mellow beats and hazy drones, The Kiffed EP finds The Oracle exploring the intricate polyrhythms of the Middle East. While the exact origins of this CD remain a mystery (quite in keeping with Austere's faceless approach to promotion), it sounds to me as if much of the sound is derived from field recordings. The liner notes themselves make reference to "travelling [sic] companions", Morocco, and Marrakech; and one of the songs is, in fact, entitled "El-Jareb (From Recordings, Essouria)". But whether these sounds are live recordings or a result of studio wizardry, there's no denying that they lend an intensely organic feel to the entire affair.

The first of the four tracks, the "CD version" of "Kiffed", begins with a soft, lilting intro of distant synths. This is, however, quickly replaced by a tribal sounding drum beat and shaker. This simple percussion is slowly built up until a steady, four-on-the-four rhythm kicks in. A growling bass cross fades from one ear to the other, only to be joined once again by the dulcet tones used in the introduction. This proceeds until just slightly before the three minute mark, when the pace accelerates and then breaks away for a buried vocal sample (I won't say what it says; you'll just have to pick up the CD to find out). The steady rhythm then returns, augmented by more synths and well place percussive accents. In all, there is a distinctly chill (indeed vaguely stoned) feel to the piece.

The second (and, in my opinion, most interesting) track, the aforementioned "El-Jared", sounds like it was recorded live, for there is a slightly distant feel to the song. It is also the most "foreign" sounding of the tracks collected here, as if the listener was sitting in some smoky kasbah somewhere in Morocco. Again, the piece if rife with polyrhythms and odd instrumentation; an immediate (and perhaps strange) association would be to the work Peter Gabriel has done with both his Real World label and his soundtrack to The Last Temptation Of Christ, Passion. This song is a picture of distant, sand-strewn lands and mysterious characters; an exciting aural trip.

Perhaps the most conventional sounding track on the CD is "Pieces Of Bass (Yeah)", the third track. While it still retains the organic percussion, it is driven by squiggly bass lines and a heavy club beat. Repeated vocal samples are used throughout and lots of synth-driven sounds fly back and forth, making this one of the least organic tune here.

The final track is a remix of "Kiffed" (the "Kicker" remix, to be exact). While this remix sounds very similar to the "CD Version", it does feel heavier, yet sparser. There are several breaks and The Oracle once again has a good time with some amusing vocal samples here. This is also the most "clubby" track on the CD, the organic rhythms providing more of an aside to a straight up four-on-the-floor beat. It seems to mix the feel of the "CD Version" with the ethos of "Pieces Of Bass (Yeah)". It's a good balance of the two.

In all, this is an intriguing CD. While it is a radical change from Quintesscence, it does illustrate the depth of The Oracle's musical interests. Given this, I'm quite looking forward to the follow up release, the full CD, Rite Of Passage: Travels In Morocco.

Other slippery tunes:

The Mystifying Oracle - The Kiffed EP
(see above, brutha)

Techno Animal - Brotherhood Of The Bomb
(100% guaranteed brain damage)

Black Sun Empire - Driving Insane
(dig deeper, dig darker)

Final - Final 3
(took him long enough, didn't it?)

Matt Borghi - Johnson McCready's Morning Breaks In And Settles
(2nd in Kikapu's Circle Series)


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