Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
With a string of interesting albums being released over the year or so that I’ve been aware of their existence, I’m at the point where I pay attention to just about everything that Belgian label Consouling Sounds puts out these days, and doubly so when a project involves Amenra’s Colin H. Van Eeckhout (CHVE).
I’ll admit to never having heard of Empusae, the vehicle of composer Nicolas van Meirhaeghe, prior to receiving the promo for Lueur, but the accompanying (paraphrased) description of it being dark electronica fused with drone sounded interesting enough, and with the aforementioned inclusion of the vocal talents of CHVE, there really wasn't any way I could say no to checking it out.
How much you get out of Lueur will largely depend on how amenable you are to having to patiently wait for a musical payoff because, like the promo materials state, this album is firmly rooted in the drone side of the genre equation, with large swathes of each of the two 20-odd minute songs spending large portions of their time crafting mood and atmosphere to varying degrees and in differing ways.
The album’s opening track, “Guiding Light”, is the more accessible of the two songs on offer in that while it’s undeniably drone oriented, its narrative arc is traversed with a level of immediacy not entirely representative of drone in the most common of senses. While there's definitely several minutes spent establishing the underlying core of the drone from the outset, it isn't long before the central theme is established, coinciding with the introduction of CHVE's instantly recognisable vocal styling and making for an extremely memorable, and more importantly enjoyable, affair.
The second track, “Retinae Tenebrae”, is where I think people who are less inclined towards drone, ambient, and electronica are going to have the most trouble, because it's a far more minimalistic number that takes its time setting the scene before eventually settling into a ritualistic movement at its centre. It's a solid track that lays bare the diversity in composer Nicolas van Meirhaeghe’s creative repertoire, but I have to admit that I struggle with it if my mood isn't perfectly attuned to the task of absorbing it. I think if both tracks followed the same approach as the second one then it would probably be easier to digest, but because there's a stark difference between the two, the juxtaposition is far more pronounced and can even be a little jarring.
There's a lot to like about Lueur, but I feel like I can't make that statement without the offering of caveats. This is an album that can be quite challenging and is far from an easy listen, but it's also an album that will reward the listener that's accepting of the challenge. The biggest caveat to take into consideration is that I can't imagine someone without a passing interest in drone or experimental music being able to take advantage of this trade off, despite the rewards available for reaping.