ATF is back again, this time with a physical full-lenght album after some EP's and net-releases (having made a total of over 15 releases within 8 years). My expectations for this release were already high due to a couple of EP's I've heard from the band previously (reviewed here and here), but the album's name got me even more interested. The band promises me memetic etchings, and I'm expecting for them to happen. If you don't know the band, know that their music is intented to be used as "general ritual intensifiers", meaning that the music is meant to be a part of -or to even create- a deep and truly personal experience.
The album consists of 7 parts, yes, but they're so tightly knit together that talking about each of them separately would be nonsense. The main elements are as follows. The synth, or at least something that really sounds like one, creates some semi-ethereal sounds that fill most of the soundscape and are audible at almost all times. They don't usually have a pattern, although their progress shows traces of repetition at times; they're moreso a "sound mat", put out to serve as the foundations for the other sounds. Their sound is usually a peaceful and soft one with occasionally a harsher touch, but it's only to make them more appealing and less usual. They still have variation, naturally; the two-minute part five has an even (in comparison) noisy, albeit softly humming sound, and occasionally they're in the background as a really thin signal just to give the soundscape a little depth and the ethereal and peaceful touch. This sound is often backed up by another synth-layer with a slightly more sharp and a bit eerie sound, giving the synths the variation they need. The other sound also moves more freely in both patterns and volume levels, thus bringing some surprises to the composition.
The album's backgrounds were recorded in an out-of-use sewer, and they consist of for example scratching something against the tiles, croaking frogs, some tile-, wood- and stone-hits, rattles, and various other beats in the distance. They all sound pleasantly organic and their softness due to the echoing makes them fit perfectly to the atmosphere, and gives the album a big part of it's character and personal sound. Their variation and unpredictable nature give the album a good dose of variation and thus more appeal, too. An occasional sound panning from one speaker (or earphone) to another is also a nice add in all it's simplisticity, making the music more vivid and actual: many times both of the speakers have their own backgrounds, too, so there's a lot to discover within the music.
So, what does the big picture sound like? It sounds uneven. For example the watery drones backed with ethereal hums in part three are a true pleasure to the ears, and there are many such moments that really grab your attention to the soundscape and the otherworldly emotions it breathes out. Sadly there are weaker parts, such as the part four in it's ten minutes long entirety. It's really peaceful, and even though it's background croaks and hisses bring variation to it, it's whole remains flat and uninspiring, even thin sound-wise - especially after part three. The fourth part has many good elements, but they're mixed so that the whole is uninteresting and way too safe. Part six and it's signal-drones make this kind of expression work a lot better.
Overall it seems that the record doesn't know it's nature. It partly relies a lot on the repetition and minimalism, whereas partly it relies on a few interesting droning sounds panning from earpiece to another with some beats and synths backing the varying whole up. It's really hard to focus on the record as you don't really know how to look at it; should it be a calming and hypnotic one, or an interesting and highly appealing one? The truth is that by going to both directions the record falls short from it's capabilities, as the tracks and their very varying aims (be it the even very different natures of the tracks caused by the mixing, or the tracks' wholes created by the sounds alone) don't grab the listener's attention the way they should. I was bummed when I realized that the record totally lets go of the listener from time to time.
The artist behind the project said that "M.E." was composed to serve as a part in his rite of recharging his entity, which might also explain the nature of the record; it might've been carved to suit a certain ritual that one must be familiar with to fully understand the record's and it's different parts' purposes. As of now, I can only say that I was let-down, but the album still channels forth sounds, emotions and feeling in a way that many "ritual musicians" can only dream of, and does it in a personal way and sound too; it's just the whole and it's flow from one part to another that doesn't fully work.