There’s an undeniable cinematic quality to Hior Chronik’s music. The Athens-born, Berlin-based composer writes moody and ambient compositions with lush textures and buckets of reverb. Practically any work from his latest record Out of the Dust would perfectly fit within a Denis Villeneuve or Terrance Malick film. Chronik’s sustained drones and pensive harmonies were practically written to accompany a long tracking shot in the modern cinematic landscape. Hitting the point home, the promotional material for this album contains a quote from the composer: “I wanted to make a soundtrack for a movie that was never shot.”
For fans of Sigur Rós and Explosions in the Sky Out of the Dust is an ideal record. “Whispers from the Surface of a Lake” and “Remember” are massive explorations in rich timbres and resonance. These tracks, much like most of those on the record, give the listener hazy impressions of ideas rather than drive home any salient point. “Cosmos” blends haunting trumpet and violin melodies with subtle glittering electronic glitches in a way that sounds completely natural. As a composer and producer Chronik is certainly skilled at fusing electronic and acoustic elements in a way that reflects their musical kinships. The record takes cues from minimalism and the introverted side indie rock in reverence to space and contemplation.
Oddly enough, it’s this very reverence that makes the 12 tracks feel a little overindulgent. “Foreigner in a Strange World” and “In a Parallel Universe” are haunting tracks, but their impact diminishes over the course of an album that sounds like 12 variations on the same idea. True, it’s not unjust to draw direct comparisons between Chronik’s music to the post-rock of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and contemporary classical of Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson directly due to this space and contemplation. However, GY!BE and Jóhannsson tend to develop their music with contrasts textures, tempos, and aesthetics contrasts sadly missing throughout Out of the Dust.
This isn’t all to say it’s a bad album by any means. Quite the contrary; it’s undeniably beautiful in its invocation of stark landscapes and deep sonic spectrum. Out of the Dust is actually seductive in the way each track takes its time, how they unfold at a glacial pace as they build in experiential listening. Unfortunately, while instrumentation and electronic manipulations evolve, this overall lethargic sensibility remains constant. Each track is stunning yet interchangeable, culminating in an album that lacks any true sense of variety or development.
Listening to each composition separately provokes a richer experience than taking the recording in all at once. It’s painful to say that the album’s aesthetic overstays its welcome, but there is only so much to grasp onto throughout Out of the Dust. Imagining Chronik’s music in a larger context, as part of an installation or even an actual film soundtrack, would give it a perfect home. The music itself can stand on its own, but to augment it with appropriate visual imagery would solidify its effectiveness.
Chronik understands how to sculpt with a hybrid of acoustic and electronic elements. Out of the Dust reflects a great composer who executes his vision with grace, yet this vision is regretfully lacking in diversity.