Ambient electronica isn't usually my thing.
Therefore, I normally wouldn't seem like the Minion most likely
to review anything by dark ambient, New Hampshire band Horchata
(really the brainchild of Mike Palace). However, once upon a
time, I sat through a two Mac band at last year's Independent
Georgia festival, and I enjoyed it to boot. So, with many things
piled upon the respective plates of other Minions, I got handed
a Horchata CD and sent off to write a review.
Here I sit, pondering Horchata's disk, Integral.
Scarily enough, I like it. It seems like a decent soundtrack,
although I have to say a couple of songs are vaguely creepy
in a wintry sort of way. For instance, the second song Wind
isn't the sort of thing I'd like to play before I go to bed.
With the vaguely animalistic sounds in the background and the
cold brittleness of the wind effect, it's the sort of song that
would induce me to have nightmares about being lost in the woods
on a cold fall night with a whole lot of nature surrounding
me and thinking of me as being, perhaps, dinner. Of course,
after a good three minutes of these effects, the track moves
into a more gentle tune, although the hint of menace remains
behind the entire thing. Likewise, the undertrack of Root
has the eeriness of Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow,
despite the more discordant sounds which provide the melody
(as it were) for the rest of the song.
Other songs are also very evocative, if not soothing. And this
is the case with Horchata -- the simple one word titles such
as Leaf or Rust seem designed to lead the listener
to think about an object, if not an entire mood. Of course some
of it doesn't make sense -- how does the futuristic droning
beat of Tar invoke anything remotely gooey-y? Similarly,
although the staccato pattern of Rain could certainly
lead one into pondering rainfall, the more mechanized patterns
of the song don't have the naturalistic quality of some of the
earlier work on Integral.
Nevertheless, I stand by my first impression: I like Integral.
But the question remains: why? After considering this question
for a while, I began to think about one of my other non-Minion
interests, silent film. In the case of both the silent film
as well as Horchata, the artist/director most relies on the
listener/viewer's other senses to create the moods that would
usually be provided by voice. Although some people might consider
the palette to be therefore limited, it requires a different
skill to maintain the imagery and/or tell the story. Likewise,
it seems to require a more active mental state for the audience
to interpret and understand what is going on. In the best non-vocal
music, much like in the best of silent film , the artist can
explain themselves in such a way that the audience gets the
point without having it hand-fed to them. In Integral,
Mike Palace manages to invoke his imagery easily and maintain
his mood, much like the best of the Silent Films. Therefore,
this album seems like a successful effort.