Trace Elements

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On Trace Elements, Akatombo (aka Paul Kirk), a Scottish expatriate in Japan, creates a thick, entrancing flow of sound that fans of the darker end of shoegazing -- or more particularly the mesmerizing murk of early Third Eye Foundation -- will want to investigate forthwith. A number of songs, perhaps most notably the clatter and shadowy drone of "Ponderlust," could almost be from an early Third Eye Foundation release like Ghost; which is no bad thing at all. There's enough grinding Kevin Martin/Mick Harris drum-heavy abuse as well (as "Bad Cop" shows in spades) to make this the soundtrack to a rather dank film noir. The Ennio Morricone-twang in the moaning feedback and huge, steady beats on "Dry-Loop" sets a tone that is maintained and often times is made even darker as the album progresses, to the point where "Non-Returnable" practically is a soundtrack to doom. At times the distortion and atmospheres approach the dank density of New Zealand's murkier visions, though comparatively more interested in mechanistic structure and repetition than, say, Dead Can Dance. If "Inscrutable" is part-parody of a standard Western view of the Japanese from past years (sonically it's not entirely that, but it comes close), bicycle bells ring and echo over moaning tones Scorn would approve of, along with a deep digging riff. Nothing on Trace Elements is a new or sudden revelation -- it's a matter of working with familiar tropes and finding new combinations -- and on that front Akatombo does just fine, whether it's the abbreviated halfway-to-jungle beat on "Cicada," introducing a bit of sudden joy, or the transcendent, burrowing flow of sound over barely understandable conversational snippets on "Twisted" (possibly the album's highlight).

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