Labyrinthine – Angel Wars

4 out of 5

Label: Weme Records

Produced by: Satan (mixed, mastered by)

This one took me several spins to appreciate, and I had to support it with some listens of the digital version, as there are some fantastic subtleties buried ‘neath its aggressive top layer – subtleties that maybe your record player is better at spitting out than mine, but that I couldn’t really appreciate until digital clued me into them – that add much to the experience. Without those additions, I was just hearing Labyrinthine’s upfront, repetitive percussion, and not really digging the way that percussion didn’t seem to evolve much over fairly short runtimes. The beats were good, yes, but it felt like any hints of moving beyond those beats were just tickled, then dropped when the song would end after a couple minutes.

But: I gave the bandcamp version a shot, and the whole thing opened up. The short track length and hefty BPM, high-end drums are a definite part of the approach – certainly lending the record some of the momentum and force suggested by its title, Angel Wars – but there’s a lot of fantastic synth work, haunting, weird, or equally aggressive to the percussion, reverbed in the back of the mix. Going back to the LP, I could hear it, and when you turn it up, it makes for a great mix – although I do think that mix is still more favorable digitally; the vinyl pressing definitely (to my ears) leans very much on the beat in a way that’s not favorable to the other flourishes.

What might be going on with the Latin song names, and being mixed by, ahem, “Satan,” I can’t necessarily say, but narratively, the listen starts with kind of positive vibes and comparatively lowkey, then ticks up the forcefulness a bit, before the B-side dives in to darker tunes and even louder beats (although to be clear, these are not bass beats – Labyrinthine prefers a generally lighter and more flighty range of tones). Concluding track Cotard Delusion is especially interesting in this sequence, as it returns to the more withdrawn vibe of opener Adventu Princeps, but finds a middleground between light and dark in terms of tones. What’s also fascintating about this is that the 7 tracks on the vinyl release are wholly resequenced from the longer, bandcamp version, so I’ll need to listen to that a bit more in depth, separately to get a feel for it.

Very engaging stuff; I’d like to think there’re enough hints on the vinyl that would’ve encouraged me to give it deeper listens without the digital backup, but whatever the case, this is something to give some time to warm up to.