Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nick Olman – Smear Campaign : Dark Ambient / Industrial Ambient / Drone

Reviewed by Gird_09

I'm starting to run out of ways to describe this kind of music. It starts off with deep drones, a raspy breathlike sound that shifts back and forth between the speakers and strings that fade in slowly – to become a massive presence. It's very atmospheric, if also quite predictable. The production values are high, and there are no flaws in arrangement. This kind of music could easily end up as a blob of low end frequencies, but Nick Olman manages to let each sound come into its own right. In particular I appreciate the way the strings (for lack of a better word, presumably they're actually a choir) remind me of the artfully crafted compositions of Ligeti, with microtonal drifts in and out of harmony. I like that.

Also the album full of subtleties and manages to contain soothing, and yet unsettling melodies and is in general very relaxing. The range of sounds used is greater than what I've come to expect from albums in this genre, and that counts as a big plus in my book. Additionally the various electronic instruments manage to sound vibrant and full of patina. Many people don't pay enough attention to how their instruments sound, and we end up with crappy soft synth strings and plastic sound drums - perhaps the main staple of bedroom studio syndrome. Not so on this album though. Check out the drums on "Primordial (Below Heaven and Earth)". They are about as far from plastic as you can get. With the exception of the strings on "Looks I could kill". If someone comes up to and asks you "Do you want a VSTi?", JUST SAY NO! (Or atleast, put alot of hours into making them sound like you said no...)

Big kudos to Olman for not falling into the trap that so many drone / dark ambient musicians do: the album is not 74 minutes jam packed with drones. It's total running time of a little more than fifty minutes is maybe ten minutes more than I would ideally prefer, but it's not so long you get bored. Take a hint from this people. Give people too much, and they get bored with you. Keep them wanting more. In addition the album may be based in drones, but it's dynamic and keeps changing. The album has a lot of content, quite simply.

In general the album is deftly executed and in fact full of surprises, such as the "rusty"distorted vocals on track two. "Ghost in the machine" is a rarely fitting title, as that is just what it sounds like. While deeply rooted in the traditions of the genre the album comes off as fresh and original. The first track is a bit predictable, but the rest of the album is interesting and exciting in every way. I admit I started off as sceptical (as always) but ended up convinced. In fact this might become one of my favorite albums in the genre...

USA, Self released, CD Album, 2010

1 the Deepest of Black Waters [10:47]
2 Ghost in the machine [7:22]
3 Primordial (Below heaven and Earth) [7:32]
4 Through a Corrupted Mind [5:39]
5 With Tortured Affection [9:07]
6 Looks I Could Kill [4:24]
7 Eternal Servant to the Departed [8:06] (free listens) (free listens)

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