October 6, 2022

Deaf Center – Pale Ravine (Type)

Hot on the heels of Julien Neto’s wonderful Le Fumeur de Ciel earlier this year, this latest release on Type must surely establish John Xela and Stefan Lewandowski’s still barely two-years-old label as one of the jewels in the crown of the UK independents. They used to call Default – their club night partnership before Type took over – ‘warm electronic music’ – which lays out the stall eloquently enough for its migration to the record label: there’s no denying it – it’s warm, it’s electronic, and its music. Clearly, though, in this post-eclectic universe, there’s generous scope within that fairly wide brief for a catholic interpretation of the label’s label (tell me if this let’s-have-fun-with-words stuff starts to get tedious).

If anyone were ever to do a themed David Lynch night, for instance, they’d need look no further than the Deaf Center discography for their mixing palette. Pale Ravine, the follow-up to their impressive début EP, Neon City, is a typical example of the type that is Type – a set of hypnagogic reveries inspired by beauty but slightly infected with alarm.

Norwegians Erik Skodvin and Otto Totland are a pair of old school chums whose combined resources mass a perceived aesthetic tonnage disproportionate to their number – their music is old-school synth-orchestral atmospherics relying heavily on some minimalist-meets-jazz piano (my, hasn’t this been a good year for pianos?) that puts it right up there in the classy OST-like category of such composers as Cliff Martinez, Michael Nyman, or perhaps Dun Tan (I’m thinking that fabulous double-looped oriental/occidental crossover that contributes so significantly to the epic atmospheres of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero).

Unlike the experience of listening to a normal OST, however, the imaginary narrative we reverse engineer from this soundtrack-without-a-movie will be different for everyone who listens to it. There’s an overarching parabola of hovering angst and barely shielded neurosis that summons images of fog-shrouded fjords, deep, dark, cold water, guilt, and dark secrets in small tight-lipped communities – but maybe that’s just me cos I’ve been there. Uplifting it certainly ain’t, but if you like your music to raise the hairs on the back of your neck a bit, this should uplift them nicely