Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Ylajali - Syntaks
SCQ Rating: 77%
Unless you’re familiar with Norwegian author Knut Hamsun and his psychologically numbing novel, Hunger, the title of Syntaks’ new album may seem positively reference-less. As it happens, Jakob Skott and Anna Cecelia’s choice of title is in honour of one of Hunger’s characters, a woman whose mystery obsesses and ultimately unravels the mind of Hamsun’s protagonist. Hamsun’s groundbreaking details of this slow breakdown sum up the lead inspiration for Ylajali, as Syntaks aim to aurally transmit the emotions of our “inner lives”. Such a unique muse – made stronger by Syntaks’ decision to record mere blocks from where Hamsun wrote his masterwork – certainly gives added depth from a songwriter point-of-view but as an electronic record of such dreamy proportions, Ylajali fits by simply bearing its rare and beautiful name; one which could reference a galaxy as convincingly as a girl.
Indeed, there’s something inexplicably cosmic about this album, how it contorts space and sterility at the whim of a great romantic. The enduring shimmer of ‘Blue Sunshine’, all punctuated beats and modulating synths, arches with the grace of an epic despite its four-plus minutes, no differently than how ‘Phantasmogoria’, which creeps about Geogaddi territory with a fresh sense of optimism, avoids skimming the four-minute mark. Economic as these tracks are, they unfold and spread like purposeful, head-nodding symphonies. Come to think of it, the title ‘Blue Sunshine’ adequately summarizes Syntaks’ atmospheric approach on Ylajali, cloaking warm tones with chilled-out ambiance. These weather changes aren’t easy to miss: ‘She Moves Colors’ casts a cool artificial sheen but it’s disrupted by thunderous shoegaze guitar while the tender solace of ‘Dark Night’ swirls into a fog of bassy keys and synthesized rays. Fulfilling the sonic promises laid down on last month’s Mistral Moon EP, Ylajali is a monolithic soundtrack for a love bound between earth and stars.
Forgive all of this cosmic-talk; Ylajali may feel starry-eyed and enormous but there’s a good deal of familiarity at work too. Occupying the same grandiose synth-work as Ulrich Schnauss, Syntaks manage to step beyond with morphing breakbeats and Cecelia’s army of faint vocals which, on ‘Love Camp 23’ and ‘Mistral Moon’, combine to fill what might be the limits of stereophonic sound. If there’s any qualm regarding this technique (and yes I'm reaching for one...), it’s that Syntaks run on all cylinders too often, occasionally blowing our senses when some nuanced anticipation will do. The record’s last couplet seems to acknowledge this, reducing the duo’s atmospheric edge into the twilight hours with a more meditative flow. Still, named after the object of Hamsun’s affection, Ylajali is an overwhelming, steadfast ode to adoration and the idea of perfection. It comes pretty close, itself...