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Tzolk'in, "Haab"

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Tzolk’in, as well as being the term given to the 260-day Mayan calendar system, also happens to be the name chosen to encapsulate the collaborative tribal industrial project instigated by Nicolas van Meirhaeghe of Empusae and Gwenn Trémorin of Flint Glass. Haab is their second album, following on from their self-titled 2004 debut on Divine Comedy, and the eight tracks of dark ambient and industrial inflected dance exhibited here project us into a long-lost and forgotten world of irrecoverable mystery, edged with sharply-bladed sinister undercurrents and spine-tinglingly brooding rainforest atmospheres.



It’s an exotic concoction indeed, combining as it does primal rhythms that spear their way directly to the primitive heart of mankind’s brain, creating a delicious friction between the base appeal of something quite untainted, untamed, and raw, and the fear of the alien and unknown elicited by the same. Even those not entirely aware of the significance of the band name, as well as the album and track titles, would still take from it a glimpse into a world of danger, primitive instincts, and precarious existences lived out against a wild—if brightly-tinted and draped—backdrop, where garish flashes of primary colors burst out amongst the dark leafy greens and woodiness, as if to say that appearances here are deceptive; despite the peacock finery of the some of the creatures here (both animal and human) alongside them comes brutality and unalloyed cruelty. Welcome, indeed, to the heady world of Tzolk’in.

Despite the fact that most of the sounds here are digitally generated, allied to breathy voicings and whisperings in addition to the sounds of alien life, there is an undeniable natural feel to everything, that the emotions and the shivers that freely flow up and down the spine are the result of extracts from the real world, that somehow Tzolk’in have been able to reach back through history and forcibly wrench huge chunks of jungle and historical authenticity into the light of modern scrutiny. Perhaps the premier epitomisation of that comes in the form of the track called “Sotz”, flowing from the deep bass rumblings, breathiness and mournful howlings of unseen and unidentified forest-dwellers, to the loping percussive pattern that eventually breaks out into a heavy rhythmic-industrial engine that impels the whole on a headlong rush, carrying the listener crashing through the undergrowth and greenery. All the while, allied to this, there’s a distinct feeling that this wild careening is a running away, that something massive and generally inimical to the personal health of humanity has got its hungry sights set on the audience.

One of the greatest, and most remarkable, assets about this production was its innate ability to place me right in the middle of the action. I did indeed feel as if I was there, wherever ‘there’ is meant to be, and that I was completely wrapped in an environment constructed from sound and rhythm. Alongside the aforementioned “Sotz,” mention must also be made of “Yaxk’in,” an equally dramatic piece dripping, literally, with hidden disembodied beasties, twilight-garbed forests, and a deeply embedded sense of unseen menace, all propelled along with a meatily gargantuan beat, the very dark heartbeat of the jungle itself. Ensuing from here, and just to round things off, is “Xul,” the brooding intelligence of the rainforest made tangible, a slow circular croaking supported by layers of tribal percussion, moving it forward and giving it substantial weight and menace, pinning us hypnotically in its thousand-yard stare.

Without any doubt, this is one of the better, in addition to being one of the more coherent, amalgams of dark ambient atmospheres, rhythmic and tribal industrial, and intelligent dance music to come my way – the sinister and dark atmospheres are admirably sustained throughout and do so without any let-up – and furthermore each track can be recommended as being of equal quality and interest, with not a duff note between them. Personally, I tend to find that such music generally blurs into one homogeneous whole after a while; and even though there's a definite and discernible aesthetic flavoring these pieces, Tzolk'in introduce enough range and variety to sharpen my attention to stop it from wandering. In other words then, I couldn't have done better than to just sit back and let the liana- and vine-encrusted mystery that is Tzolk’in completely enfold me in its leafy and darkly primitive embrace.


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 June 2008 23:11  


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