reviewed by Michael Thomas
The evolution of Artifiseer has been more than apparent as Ian Livingstone releases more and more recordings. But his recordings up until now have often come with a preface—they’re filled with songs Livingstone decided not to put on his upcoming LP, or the recording is to tide listeners over until this LP arrives.
That LP has now arrived, and Livingstone has proven that he can take his adventurous experimental music to new heights, and for the long haul. Catalyst is not the key to a reaction; it’s the reaction itself. Catalyst is constantly moving—swirling, even—and often in unexpected directions.
There’s some continuity between this and the Enigma EP—it contained the first version of the stellar song “After Dark,” which has here been extended into an almost seven-minute cycle of a song, complete with samples, modified vocals, strong synths and music-box sounds. It’s a great hook into the rest of the album, which alternates between the poppier songs like “After Dark” and the darker, almost creepy songs like “Sleep Infinite.” The latter clanks and whirs like a piece of complicated machinery, and even as a brighter-sounding synth comes in there’s something dark just around the corner.
Even creepier is “XVIII,” which starts off like the soundtrack to a haunted castle before warping and turning into the stuff of nightmares.
“Drown” is one of the album’s strongest offerings, and despite its title, is not quite as grim as you’d think. “Struggling, I gasp for air” is a potent image to start the song off, but it quickly becomes apparent that the drowning of this song is not literal (at least, I hope not). “Lights in the Sky” is a bit more transparent in its poppiness, with bright, pulsating synths and nakedly emotional lyrics: “North winds blow and I feel it light anew/Unravel these words, these words I spin for you.”
Livingstone also proves he can be contemplative (and continues to love symbols in song titles) with “Of Stone ♥ Of Glass,” a (relatively) quieter song focusing on piano and deep, spiritual-sounding hums.
Just as Livingstone started the album with a long song, so too does he end on one. “Kiss Me in Silence” is no tender, romantic song—clocking in at roughly 9:45, the song features no vocals, only a series of harsh industrial synth sounds, as though Livingstone is forcefully pulling apart his constructs one by one. It’s an intriguing end to an unpredictable album.
The art of Artifiseer has undoubtedly reached new heights here, but Livingstone likely has way more tricks up his sleeve for the future.
Top Tracks: “Drown”; “Of Stone ♥ Of Glass”
Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good)