The dueling musical sensibilities of Mark Spybey have finally suitably merged on From Labrador to Madagascar, the first Dead Voices on Air studio album in seven years. Before 1998, he was a strictly ambient sound manipulator, able to create layers of dread with gloomy found sound and the liberal use of delay effects. Then came Piss Frond, the closest thing to a commercial breakthrough that an artist like Spybey ever sees, which saw the introduction of traditional song structures and even some vocal turns. 2000’s Frankie Pett Presents… the Happy Submarines felt like more of a stopgap than anything, though it turned out to be a stopgap that lasted seven years. Finally, Spybey is back, combining long, ambient (though rife with percussion) exercises like “Madagascar” with shorter, more structured experiments like the pounding, abrasive opener “Tongue Like Scree” and the didgeridoo-touched, disembodied voices of “Grueland”. Though discordance and dread are his trademarks, however, the best moments on From Labrador to Madagascar are the pretty ones, the delayed wood flute of “Furtive” and the distant cathedral choirs of “Splay” sticking out as the strongest moments on a really-damn-good album. It’s unlikely that Spybey will ever again release anything as accessible (not to mention accomplished) as Piss Frond, but for anyone in the market for some dark, dynamic ambient music, missing From Labrador to Madagascar would be a minor tragedy.
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