Review: S Olbricht – Trancess (Proto Sites)

Hungarian Producer Stephen Olbricht crops up here on Proto Sites after well-regarded outings for, amongst others, Lobster Theremin and Opal Tapes. The taste for scuffed up, experimental house and techno seems to be on the wane after a couple of seasons of ascendancy, so it’s nice to know that there are still some people out there who have yet to swap freewheeling sonic adventures for jazzy flute loops and nice shoes.

Trancess is very much a record of two parts with a divide between the beatless examinations of pure sound and the more conventional material. Not that the latter is really that conventional, being too acerbic to ever be described as dance floor orientated. Both halves, though, are united in thick, rich textures of frequency. In those tracks where the rare drums and percussion make their presence felt, they find themselves marshalled into duty of accentuating the ethereal rhythms that are provided by the complex interplay of all the other elements. In the occasional moments where the grooves take precedence, such as with the opener On or Onlon, they materialise as weird-boy skanks; angular and rusty they wrap themselves around ghostly yet very defined sound sculptures before breaking lazily away onto strange tangents.

Perhaps more importantly, where ambient pieces are often slight, ephemeral additions to a record, and frequently suffer from being constructed with the same mind-set that would create dance tracks (imagine writing a stage play using exactly the same tricks and structures of a novel), here they live up to their billing with a powerful sense of place both external and internalized. They are, in fact, the point of the record, and are weighty with mood and environment.

It’s not an easy record. Reminiscent here and there of other masters of sonic tapestries like Patricia or Imre Kiss (who helps out here on Lacertid), and at times an overly stark attempt to reduce the music down to a point where nothing other than the atmospherics remain, it manages to sound like the antitheses of so much that is currently doing the rounds within the underground. Not an easy record, no, but one that remains an interesting reminder that sonic exploration does not always have to set its sights on the dance floor in order to define the reasons for its own existence.