By Rick Shithouse
'Tis the season for the dark and brutal genres of 80s inspired synth music to truly flourish and bask in their own horrible nightmares. There's been a lot of releases this Halloween season and the finest one I've come across that really takes things in the right directions for me, personally, is Europaweite Aussichten's Purgatory album.
I've found that many producers doing darker sides of the sounds lose the soul and presence of their music in favour of raucous intensity. While I'll be the first person to revel in the chainsaw massacre
of synth sounds there is a time and place for everything. It's like a good horror movie, the pacing is of the utmost importance to keep the atmosphere building and make the intense spots hit the hardest when they strike.
Europaweite Aussichten balances the timing of his music to magnificently macabre perfection throughout Purgatory and blends equal parts of Giallo horror and more progressive vintage soundtrack synth work into something that is fully engrossing. The opening tracks set the tone brilliantly as the minimalist nature of the music allow for much interpretation for the listener. 'Over The City' sprawls with slow moving melodies that swell against the barest minimum of percussive tracks. The synths tell the whole story, setting a scene, speaking dialogue and drawing you into the story. This kind of sparsely populated synthscape is entirely what Europaweite Aussichten employs in many of his tracks, the less is more (TM Marko Maric) approach is entirely how the producer directs the scenes and manipulates your surroundings via sound.
The third track, 'Purgatory Theme', took me aback quite a bit as it introduced a melody that reminded me greatly of one of my favourite pieces of synth music from Queen's score of Flash Gordon. The completely different personality given to the similar structures had me completely enthralled by it. The rapidly panicking music placed behind this slow refrain gives the necessary dread to proceedings and glinting flashes of synth blades against the blackness of the night makes for an ever threatening sense of foreboding. The builds are pitch perfect and the music never breaks character to reveal the shrouded killer's face once. Splendidly diabolical.
The album is full of slow moving examinations of specific narratives that punctuate the set pieces but do far more than just being segues or vignettes to the overall story. They develop ideas deeply and keep the tone of the album on a track. Listening to this album gapless is to be encouraged as the atmospheres gain even more ferocity without the chance to catch your breath or break from the intensity.
Like many of my favourite records from this genre the album has been completely arranged as a genuine soundtrack and delving into the full experience hits home much more than individually isolated track listens. The off kilter nature of 'A Night Without Laughter' is undeniably more verbose when introduced by the preceding pieces. The minimalist nature allows Europaweite Aussichten's synth palette to be sharply focused with a small number of colours, but the blending performed to give them voices across his musical canvases is where the magic is really felt throughout Purgatory.
There's also a great deal of experimentation in the sounds too. Europaweite Aussichten opts for a fantastically low-fi aesthetic in 'Ripper's Knife' that gives a wonderful homage to vintage formats without losing any of the atmospheric intensity in the slightest. It definitely leads one to imagine how a combination of low-fi vintage and modern produced sounds could work together in one single track too. The possibilities are definitely exciting. Although the whole record has been recorded to tape after mixing, the extreme nature of the low-fi-ness of this track gives you an extra dirty experience.
I really can't stress enough how much more enriching the experience of this album is with the near complete lack of percussive tracks and definitely no modern style drum arrangements or sounds. The music gains so much more presence in this way and on pieces like 'Psychopath' the percussion is used as a tool to enhance the terror; not drive it. The technique works wonders in this style and aside from from a few producers on Giallo Disco Records and the likes of Strike Force 88 this kind of approach is largely under represented in the scene.
Even with all the moroseness and horrific passages the album is certainly not without contrasting elements to give different voices to the cast. The way a sound can be manipulated in a way to be slightly humanistic but also retain an otherworldly aesthetic comes into play during 'Signals In The Night Sky' as now the twisted synths bend into a reality that sounds unpleasant yet cries for an acceptance. The tone in this track especially is inquisitive and mysterious but uses different tones to get the message across.
'Welcome To The Glass Jungle' marks another high point on the album as the refrain lures the listener in from the first passage and then explores itself incredibly deeply. The percussion on this track is about as modern as Europaweite Aussichten gets on Purgatory but it's used in a way that doesn't ruin the aesthetic in the slightest. The build is massive in this track; but the pay of is non existent as the scene cuts right before everything goes to Hell. Part of me wishes the track took me down all the way, the other part of me loves the direction as a classic horror device.
Things really peak super high and hard in the final chapters with the thoroughly epic 'Season Of The Skull'. The music is absolutely murdering in intensity while staying completely in-decade. This track brings to mind a more fantasy oriented tale of bloodbath, as in a classic 80s post nuke or barbarian (or both!) themed affair. Structured for a huge build and pay off the melodies shine when they should and shadow when they need to.
'The Void Is Ours' returns to that UFO style of 'Signals In The Sky' and works great as a little diversionary tale the runs parallel to the macabre earthbound events; intimating powers from other worlds are guiding things from afar. This track leads into the final pieces that climax with the marvellous written end theme 'Still Out There, Waiting', as the credits role you just wish there was a sequel in the works and the little taste of action after the credits gives you that wonderful sense of expectancy.
I'm sure is unavoidable over twenty six tracks that making it all 'fit' can be a insurmountable prospect but there's every chance too that the meandering nature of some pieces are intentionally placed to give the experience just that little bit of unexpectedness. I think trimming a couple of the pieces, or splicing them into some of the other tracks possibly could've benefited overall, but this is really neither here nor there. As it stands Purgatory is like a 'kit soundtrack' you could quite easily arrange to fit your own nefarious deeds that require this kind musical accompaniment.
Werkstatt Recordings presents Europaweite Assichten's Purgatory album on their Bandcamp page here in the usual array of digital formats as well as a limited edition CD. I was absolutely taken with this record and the sheer amount of ideas, scenes and sounds explored made for a riveting experience that completely rocks that Halloween horror vibe. A stand out release in every respect and one that comes very, very highly recommended by Synthetix.FM.