Featured Image Courtesy of the Artist
Ital Tek’s latest, Hollowed, is a stripped down, brooding ambient work, a gorgeous album that knows when to skitter, shimmer and simmer. The minimal percussion on most of the tracks is suppressed almost to the point of it being a creative restraint. Hollowed‘s use of strings is a thread throughout, giving the tracks a gravity that is at once cinematic and dystopian.
Hollowed is more dark ambient than straight dubstep, a departure from Ital Tek’s prior output of just a few years ago. Tracks from Mega City Industry (2014) and Control (2013) tend to be mixed at the forefront, with heavy, fast snares vying for attention against their quieter ambient surroundings. Two tracks on Control, “Zero” and album closer “Doom/Dream” hint at what would arrive with Hollowed.
Ital Tek’s primary influence for this album was Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony #3, but there is a remnant of Burial in tracks like “Redeemer,” where ethereal vocals slide over a relaxed, reserved beat as high hats skitter across the sonic landscape. On “Nex,” Rolodex-sounding hats shudder to a halt. The whole track, with its police-siren strings and upright-bass bursts, seems to be slowing down nearly to the point of complete silence. The majestic “Murmur,” one of the album highlights, has a more prominent beat, with a snare that sounds like a cough slowed and pitched downward. With the string section carrying a slow, evolving melody, the track takes on an epic remove reminiscent of the original Tron soundtrack.
That’s not to say that there aren’t upbeat cuts on this record. “Beyond Sight” returns Ital Tek to more familiar territory, after which is “Terminus,” which takes over two minutes to drop its beat, culminating to a menacing tension crescendo a minute later. There is the monstrous “Reflection Through Destruction,” beginning with a broken air conditioner sound and largely propelled by a raspy bass synth, but even here counterpoint is provided in the form of crisp trebly stringlike timbres, quelling the synth like a lover quieting her angry partner. Here too the percussion, in this case a shuffling beat that sounds like a machine winding down, is withheld for over half the song, a technique used to great effect throughout the album. The strings are the last thing you hear on the track; the rage has been soothed. The introspective “Jenova” makes great use of a synthesizer’s buttery sputtering to provide the only semblance of a rhythm section. The interplay between the tasty bass and lead glissandos make “Aquamarine” an album and career highlight.
There have been two major milestones in dubstep. The first was the release of Burial’s self-titled debut (2006) which provided an articulation of the tones and timbre and the dark depths which served to define its genre. The second was the emergence of Skrillex with his first tunes (circa 2010), which catapulted dubstep into the mainstream, much to the core scene’s consternation. For better or worse, Skrillex’s sound was the next wave, employing aggressive, monster breaks, chopped vocals, rave-synth leads and Youtube samples, eschewing all of the genre’s dub, reggae and jungle roots. This fractured dubstep’s main practitioners, some of whom adopted dubstep’s modern sound as “the new normal.” Others, like Ital Tek, have headed for other sonic territories. Hollowed is the triumphant result of one such exploration, arising from stretching boundaries and comfort levels to create a poignant, emotional work of utter beauty.
Watch the music video for “Cobra” below.
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