SOVA STROJ - Silent Earth

Sova Stroj - Silent Earth

4 songs
41:29 minutes
***** ***


Luxembourgish musician Michel Flammant has come a long way. Entering the local music scene in the early 2000ís with garage rock band John McAsskill, he later continued with the electronic indie pop band Minipli which soon after evolved into the darker duo Plankton Waves. The strangely named Sova Stroj is his alter ego as an electronic music producer and shows him from an even gloomier side than what we have come to expect from him in the past.

His first album Silent Earth has been recorded already in 2014 but is only now released on Belgian indie label Testtoon records as a vinyl and digital download record. The four song are between nine and eleven minutes long, with the first two and the last two building actually single twenty minute blocks, which makes sense, considering that this is also a vinyl album. To describe the music is not so easy though. The opener We Danced When The Sky Turned Red combines the good (dancing) with the bad (the sky turning red), which also counts for the other tracks. In this regard, Sova Stroj feels like being spiteful in the face of darkness, which is also a kind of leitmotif for the music. Basically the general orientation is dark ambient with some industrial leanings. The modular synthesis and repetitive sequencer sounds add a certain early krautrock atmosphere which reminded me of the first four albums of Tangerine Dream that can be deemed precursors of the dark ambient genre. The ten minute long opener relies on a psychedelic sequence with something resembling Buddhist monk chants, over which the artist is adding acoustic elements like detuned toy pianos and archaic percussion. This all seques into the somewhat darker As Days Grow Silent We Love Each Other, where the earlier vintage synth melody vanishes to make room for an accordion which is heavily treated by a lot of echo effects.

The B-Side begins with Departure (To Walk Into The Waves) which is a prime example of dark ambient. No hope left here, I guess. There a lot of deep bass sounds, with electronic effects surfacing like lamenting whales, and in the background it feels like someone is listening to a Soviet orchestra on a faraway AM radio station. The concluding Our Whispers Among The Stars continues in that same vein of ultra-gloomy minimalism. Itís probably best to enjoy this post-apocalyptic dirge in a darkened room, with your eyes closed, and concentrating on the micro-variations that ultimately tell the story of the music.

Silent Earth is a far step away from Michel Flammantís earlier song-based music, and yet it shows that he is just as adept at ambient soundscapes as he is at writing pop songs. The A-Side feels a little more optimistic, with nicer melodies and a more organic approach, while the B-side is a full-on assault on the darkest nether regions of the subconscious mind. All of this sounds like the soundtrack for one of the mind expanding science fiction novels of the Golden Age back in the Fifties, proving once and for all that for all the darkness and despair, there is always a grain of beauty to be discovered if one only looks hard enough. I am really looking forward to what Sova Stroj is coming up with in the future. Silent Earth is already a highly promising beginning.

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