Music

Black to Comm Returns with an Immersive Ambient Work, 'Seven Horses for Seven Kings'

Photo courtesy of Thrill Jockey

Sound artist Marc Richter produces a terrifying record in Seven Horses for Seven Kings by implementing elements of dissonance, off-kilter sampling, and intriguing sonic landscapes

Seven Horses for Seven Kings
Black to Comm

Thrill Jockey

25 January 2019

Marc Richter has been producing an expressive brew of ambient experimental music since the early 2000s under the Black to Comm moniker. In his explorations, the German sound artist has been using intricate sound design techniques and off-kilter paradigms, taking notions across ambient music, minimalism and drone to construct an immersive sonic journey. Seven Horses for Seven Kings continues this tradition, with Richter taking on a more surrealistic and at the same time oppressive form, constructing a disturbing cinematic atmosphere.

This cinematic sense of Seven Horses for Seven Kings has an immediate impact, with "A Miracle of No-Mother Child at Your Breast" arriving with wind samples, while the solitary notes and horns further enrich this impressive sonic collage. There is a momentum to the progression of the track, it does not stay static and instead it performs a stunning climb towards an unknown destination. But while "A Miracle of No-Mother Child at Your Breast" resides in the more eerie and harsh side of Richter's mind, there is also a serene quality that sprouts forth. "Licking the Fig Tree" sees this sense of peace expand, with its darker underlying tone still posing a threat in the background.

It is the ability of Richter in designing these motifs that define the atmosphere of Seven Horses for Seven Kings. The monotonous quality of "Lethe" see him make mould different samples and sounds into a terrifying, repetitive amalgamation. The versatility of Richter does not stop there, and through the record he explores a number of different notions, from the sorrowful perspective of "Double Happiness in Temporal Decay" with its somber piano lines morphing into a chamber music offering, to the ritualistic renditions of "Ten Tons of Rain in a Plastic Cup". The surprising characteristic that Richter explores in this instance is the rhythmic component, which has been not as vividly highlighted in his previous works. It is what provides "Ten Tons of Rain in a Plastic Cup" with a more brutal sense, and the energetic and more complex progression for "Fly on You".

However, Richter's sonic collage does not stop on his sound design processes or the use of samples. Black to Comm is a much more complex beast, and that aspect comes rushing to the surface when the more grand and imposing moments of the record are unveiled. "Asphodel Mansions" even kicks off the record in that manner, letting behind the ambient approach for a dissonant and towering explosion of horns. This is where the neo-classical leanings also come together, resulting in an infernal, ritualistic procession in the case of "A Miracle of No-Mother Child at Your Breast". These ideas carry on with "If Not, Not" which includes an impressive vocal arrangement amidst the cacophony of instruments, managing to bring some light to the record's dark essence. Still, Richter travels further introducing free-jazz notions in "Licking The Fig Tree", showcasing his creative versatility and impressive craftsmanship.

Through this plethora of sounds, progressions and concepts Richter performs an overwhelming journey through a dark and dim mindset. Seven Horses for Seven Kings does rely more heavily on its oppressive nature, but there are still moments where Richter offers some respite from this vision. "The Deseret Alphabet" is such an instance, with its subtler approach showcasing a different take on the cinematic vision of the artist, while "Angel Investor" performs a complete turn, unraveling the record's darkness with its powerful, distorted soundscapes. It is this slight twist from the earthy and disturbing motifs to the more ethereal and otherworldly dimensions that make Seven Horses for Seven Kings such an interesting work.

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