Review: Cold Fusion – Architecture

cold_fusion-architecture Architecture is the sixth album by Cold Fusion, the solo project of Marcin Bachtiak. I’m familiar already with a couple of earlier Cold Fusion releases, Occupatria and Report, and while I find them listenable enough, I don’t think of them as being particularly interesting. But I’d heard a couple of tracks from Architecture and seen others giving it high praise, so I went ahead and picked up a copy, curious to hear how the project had developed.

After a quiet ambient introduction with some operatic voices, the album launches into a fast-paced and bombastic martial neo-classical track. This is very much the theme of the album. Hard drums and layers of operatic voices and orchestral instruments dominate. The next two tracks continue this theme, with the tense, restless rhythm and staccato strings of Part II: Ultitatis and the dark pounding of Colosseum.

Part III: Venustatis is a more chaotic affair, with densely layered melodic elements creating an intense disorienting effect. It’s by no means easy listening. The musical sophistication shown here outstrips much of the rest of the martial industrial genre.

Divina Proportio changes tack and goes into ambient territory. It’s a track of gentle wind-like swooshes and gentle drones. Half-way through, some hand drums come in, sounding a little middle-eastern. It’s not the most interesting track but provides a small rest for the ears amidst the bombast of the rest of the album.

The album quickly returns to that bombastic mood with the next three tracks, Iunge, Architecture, and City Streets. The latter track, in particular, goes back to the level of sophistication that makes this such an enjoyable album. Again, the tone is dark, the drums are heavy and insistent. But the subtle layers of brass and string instruments create a sad and ominous mood.

There’s a short ambient interlude and then Octagon ends the album with a slightly more pop/rock drum rhythm, but otherwise largely orchestral instrumentation. Then, as the track comes to a close, a buzzing synth starts to dominate. This track doesn’t seem to fit with the martial neo-classical style of the rest of the album, and I can’t help but think that the album would have been stronger without it. But it’s much like how the Amen break made it’s way into one of the tracks on Occupatria. Bachtiak doesn’t quite let go of an aesthetic that comes from more electronic music.

The production on the album is stunning throughout, with the small exception of a strange whistling noise in the Intro. Despite being densely layered at points, the sounds remain clear. The drums are bright and powerful. The orchestral instrumentation sounds convincing rather than artificial.

Ultimately, I find myself very impressed by this album. It is musically sophisticated, well-produced, varied in pace but (with the exception of the last track) consistent in style. It represents great progress from Cold Fusion’s earlier releases.

(The only other thing I’ll say about this album is to note that I also made a release called Architecture a couple of years before this one, and the similarity of the covers is a strange coincidence. Great minds think alike, apparently.)

Iudicium

I’m happy to announce the release of Iudicium, the new Hands of Ruin single. The story of this release is a long one. Back in 2010, as part of a challenge to myself to write five tracks in five days, I surprised myself by coming up with a track that made use of a palette of sounds that were unusual for me: starting with a base of darbuka samples and a droning sound made from slowing down a vocal sample, I came up with a track with a distinctly middle-eastern feel. I thought at the time that it was a strong track and I was proud of it, but I didn’t have anything else with that sort of sound so I didn’t really know what to do with it.

A few months later, encouraged by the success of this track, I tried to come up with others that made use of the same palette of sounds, but it’s one of the strange things about making music: sometimes I make all the right steps and a track can come together very quickly, but often I struggle for a long time and don’t succeed in coming up with something that I’d be happy for other people to hear.

When I met the artist Malwina Chabocka, we decided that we’d like to collaborate, combining my music with her visuals. While she was in Poland and I was in London I sent her my early version of Iudicium. She responded with some visual ideas, and once we were both together in London we put them together into the video. It was our first attempt at animation, and it took a lot of trial and error to put together. Next time we do something like this — and we do have some more ideas in the pipeline — we’ll do it very differently. Nonetheless, we’re proud of what we achieved.

At some point during the process, we decided to make life a bit easier for ourselves by shortening the track. The original was eight minutes long, but we cut it down to five for the video.

The other two tracks, Sententia and Absolutio, were two of the attempts to replicate the success of Iudicium. I’m happy with them now, but they took a lot more work and a few false starts before I got to the point where I was satisfied. In particular, it was only last summer when I had a bit of time to work on music while on holiday in Poland that I introduced the manipulated vocal samples from a recording of Rachmaninov’s The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into Sententia that give it the character it has now.

So this release collects both the video and original versions of Iudicium, along with Sententia and Absolutio, plus the video itself. I hope you enjoy it.