Music

Sigillum S Produce One of the Best Dark Experimental Albums of the Year

Italian audio collective Sigillum S are probably not nearly as well known as they ought to be, for The Irresistible Art of Space Colonization and Its Mutation Implications is one of the finest dark electronic albums of the year.

The Irresistible Art of Space Colonization and Its Mutation Implications
Sigillum S

Transmutation

14 September 2018

Sigillum S are an Italian audio collective that have been around in shifting forms since the mid-'80s, producing a range of experimental, ritualistic, noise and dark electronic music. Their latest, The Irresistible Art of Space Colonization and Its Mutation Implications, reveals a group of artists whose creative vision, after more than three decades, is as strong as ever, both musically and conceptually.

Musically the album is a triumph, drawing together the best of their vintage sound with new technologies. It opens with that distant drone and layered, fuzzy noise that's so evocative of '80s experimental noise bands, and the album retains much of what was best from that era (noisy drone, ethereal gongs, and chimes, samples deployed sparingly). Yet it combines the simple technology of that period with the immense capacity of today's electronics, progressing through glitchy, computer-generated noise and pounding drum 'n' bass beats stitched together with gorgeous orchestral ambiance.

Conceptually, too, the album is ambitious. The thing about ambient, experimental albums is that regardless of what aural soundscape they're supposed to represent, the listener is free to paint over it with their own imagined sound fantasies.

In the case of The Irresistible Art of Space Colonization and Its Mutation Implications, the vision presented by the artists is that of a future galaxy where humans have been shaped and reshaped by their interstellar explorations. It's a place where where zero-gravity evolution combines with cell mutations, radiation, and bioengineering to produce new beings; where humanity's destiny is shaped by the co-evolution of our planetary cohabitants (viruses, insects, bioengineered crops); and of course where our own humanity is re-envisioned through our engagement with worlds inhabited by alien species.

It's an ambitious dreamscape to interpret aurally, but thematically the vision works, and the album succeeds in spinning a dark, noisy, ambient soundtrack to accompany this next-millennial imagined existence. But often it's just as much fun to set aside the authors' fantasy, and allow your own brain to construct a vision to accompany the creatively imagined sound structures of works such as this.

With track titles like "Occult Storage for Pan-Dronic Glossolalia" and "Through the Endless Streams of Satellite Euphoria", the artists succeed in sharing a range of very specific imagery, but the tracks are so creatively constructed that it's probably better to let your mind wander and paint whatever scenes the cosmic dust delivers. Indeed, the album provides a seamless soundtrack for those wishing to take it as a fully conceptualized immersive experience, but there's adequate differentiation on the tracks to consider them in their own right too.

The first track, "Occult Storage for Pan-Dronic Glossolalia", opens with classic Sigillum: a vast mountain of noise, deep and distant drones, hoarse trumpets, a sensation of echoing valleys. The second track, "Wrong Proto-Matter Gravitation", speeds up both rhythm and harshness, adding a glitchy, harsh noise baseline that pounds out the beats ever more quickly and harshly.

"Genetically Engineered Insects" winds down the tempo, drawing on old-style synths to take the sound in a more mysterious direction. Whispered vocals and an ethereal chorus that is at once angelic and ghostly depict these imagined insects, but again it's possible to eschew the techno-visions and conjure images of ancient ruins; unexplored planets and mist-enshrouded temples.

"When Comets Become Organic Households" amps up the beats, in a glitchy drum 'n' bass style. The rhythm flows from inquisitive and questioning to dark and mysterious. Conceptually the track invokes a future when even shooting stars are colonized, and indeed there is something deeply evocative of comets inherent in the track. The glitchy beats conjure the protean sparks of a comet racing through the cosmic darkness, its plume showering passing planets in sparks. The climax of the track is superb: the scattered individual comet arcing overhead, conveyed through the fizzing and sparking of gorgeously distorted beats, erupts into dense, sped-up magnificence with each glitchy beat multiplied manifold: expanding into a sudden meteor shower pelting the atmosphere relentlessly.

After the storm, the calm. "Through the Endless Streams of Satellite Euphoria" opens ethereal and calm, gently mysterious, then rises with steady, ritualistic beats. The next track, "Immortality", builds on this, continuing in the same vein with more mysterious, mesmerizing rhythms.

"Deep Void Plantations" begins a turn in a different direction, introducing samples amid foggy background noise. It's a temporary aberration (a brief interlude of cosmic peace, offering stellar colonists a temporary space of bucolic calm, perhaps?); the final tracks "Let Ghosts and Floating Bodies Invade You" and "Celestial Heliocentric Cultures" bring things full circle. They close off the album with a renewed sense of mystery, of regrowth; a gentle pulsing beat builds underneath the noise, emerging into a steady rhythm -- new life, new experience, the cycle begins anew.

Music is there to be interpreted, and the mark of inspiration is reflected in the variability and diversity of possible imagined worlds. Sigillum S are masters of the trade, and bring all the power of their decades of dark electronic experimentation to the table with their newest release. The Italian audio collective is probably not nearly as well known as they ought to be, for this is one of the finest dark electronic albums of the year.

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