Ascetic's the New Aesthetic: Filmmaker "Somber Realm" Album Review
For anyone who knows me in real life, at some point or another I’ve mentioned my gratuitous aversion to paying for a music subscription. Sure, I could pay a monthly fee so Spotify can discover new music for me, but personally I prefer the charm and serendipity of blindly stumbling onto an arbitrarily chosen record by (virtually) complete chance [note: I have tried using Spotify’s discovery feature, but it’s always failed to curate song’s I either haven’t already heard or find interesting]. This usually happens at shows or music stores where I buy records at random, based on whether I think the album art is cool or not. Of course, I don’t only listen to physical recordings (after all, every release I’ve covered thus far has only been available through streaming, sans one cassette single), so I leave my digital consumption to the mystical aggregate monster that’s the Youtube algorithm. While Youtube’s algorithm for recommendation has its own convoluted method of mediation, from what I’ve observed the majority of “hidden jems” Youtube throws at me are boosted coincidentally by listeners from /mu (so hey, at least there’re some human element behind it).
Most nights I sit at home alone, typing away, drowning out my worried thoughts with a constant stream of ad-blocked music. While procrastinating on an overdue article one evening, alt-tabbing between Youtube and a transcribed interview of Shooby Taylor, looming at the top of the related videos bar was a sinister illustration depicting a beast soaked in sin and nightmares, ravishing its tongue along the shoulder of a nude brunette standing in front of a mirror, sizing up her reflection. Lo-fi and eerie, I couldn’t help but give the album a listen. The enigmatic electronic musician Filmmaker, someone I like to image as a hermit in Colombia who spends his days cranking out Gothic trance ruminations from some remote Andes alcove, is responsible for the creation of this release and several others like it. While "The Love Market" is their most popular album thus far, in large due to its provocative album art and the aforementioned Youtube algorithm, I decided to cover their most recent release, "Somber Realm", cause I wanted to be different. [note: at the time of writing this article, Filmmaker has already released another album. Dude’s prolific as hell]
Pounding drums entrenched in absonant, throbbing, electronic effects open the track “Invocations”, as more abrasive synths and haunting howls are driven steadfast by an entrancing drum beat. A slightly arrhythmic synth lead grabs hold as textured dissonance rings out from Filmmaker's versatile use of the electric guitar; the song closes out with a raise in tension as the guitar develops from a percussive color component into the tracks’ focus. While the song’s ambiance comes off as creepy and faintly dissonant, the mood established could be much more visceral; it looks like Filmmaker is trying to set a somber sonic scene of paranoid meandering rather then something combative or offensive. "Castle Maze" leads us further down a dismal spiral, as a chorus treated synth looms in low dissonance while lo-fi clattering resonates through heavy Gothic reverb. A driving bit-crunched bass line rests center in the mix, and brooding low end resounds outwards from the tumultuous kick drum. The rhythm remains steady and doesn’t deviate much in structure.
Ghastly chimes toll out as “Encounters” transitions forcibly with a choppy and heavy hitting baseline. Rhythmic synths sway in the background, fading in and out of the song along with much of the track’s instrumentation. The song breaks down consistently through its brief duration, not overstaying its welcome; suitable for club/background music. “Hermetik” opens with a suave and contemplative drum line that’s juxtaposed ominously by strained synth work. The bass repeats at a rate that’s rigid and stuttered. Morbid lo-fi strings wail and moan in background. “Emerging Alchemy” conjures more bit-reduction, with the bass' sonic profile reduced to a shallow husk; rhythmic synths continue to arp as heard in prior tracks.
“The Silk Road” is probably the most Gothic track on the album, with a post-punk style of composition. The drums have a nice tactile quality to them, as they drive the song with a shuffling Arabian aesthetic. “Emerging Alchemy” continues with the same sonic stylings as previous tracks, offering little in variation; same goes for “Evil Reign”.
"Lay Asunder" is a surprisingly poppy closer, touting bright color and a shimmering lo-fi harp reminiscent of an omni chord. The arpeggiated electronics and vocal choir begin to drop out in the song's latter half, giving priority to the drooling bass and crushed drums. The track is both daunting and sentimental; appropriate for a cinematic horror score.
Like much of Fillmmaker’s discography, "Somber Realm" guides the listener through a misanthropic soundtrack painted by cinematic strokes of seclusion, rapt asceticism, and sweat inducing paranoia. Filmmaker currently hosts their albums on bandcamp and as full length uploads on youtube; from what I can tell, a “12 record of The Love Market is slated to be released by Detriti Records in the near distant future. The German label hosts a tight discography of dark-core electronica material, such as "Etazhi" by Molchat Doma and "Demian" by La Punta Bianca. The album art to every release is over exposed and gives the label a feeling of esoteric nostalgia; it’s like the aesthetic antithesis to the whole City Pop/Future Funk revival from the past couple of years. Whether this bubble of electronic misanthropy will have the same staying power as the now waning vapor-synth-dream-retroAMV-wave craze isn't for me to say. Personally, I can only handle so much sonic alienation. Maybe I'll cover a pop album next.