Stygian Vistas

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Not quite a new album, not quite a stand-alone EP, not entirely a remix collection, Stygian Vistas is an often enjoyable collection of moody instrumentals in the vein of Soma's earlier work. While it's perhaps easier to tell at a distance than at the time, Soma could be said to have had peers in groups like A Small Good Thing and Future Sound of London, bands who played around with ambient textures, breakbeats, worldwide sources of samples and instruments, and a sense of cinematic work, suggesting soundtracks to unfilmed movies. The use of twangy electric guitar on some tracks, calling to mind as it does the innovative work of Ennio Morricone, is the clearest connection to that last sense, as songs like the title track and "God Sends the Meat & the Devil Cooks (...And Cooks...and Cooks...)," the latter reappearing from Hollow Earth in a new form, amply demonstrate. At the same time the sense of tribal rhythms from many different sources demonstrates perhaps why Soma's Pieter Bourke later worked with Lisa Gerrard -- "The Olmec Enigma," with its beats intermixing between electronic and apparently acoustic elements (including what almost might be a sequenced guitar part), is a nicely moody example. The polite experiments with jungle on songs like "Amphibious Premonitions Bureau," while enjoyable, lack the careening edge that defines the best of such work. Of the outside remixes, the Nonplace Urban Field take on the title track is fair enough, but the Francois Tetaz take on "Riser From Agartha" is something else again, at once a deep, murkily sensuous dub and a crisp, upfront steady beat, a quavering vocal sample bridging the gap. The Fetisch Park remix of "Alchemical Nuptial" closes the album on an agreeable enough note.

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