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Düne Kankel - "Side Stepping The Abyss" album review

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about musick. Surprisingly, I haven't been writing about it at all. My girlfriend and I moved across town at the end of the summer, and we're still unpacking and making repairs. We had to put our band and other creative endeavors on hold for the moment. I'm just getting back into the swing of things after months, and I actually started recording a new noise album for a label that asked me to do a release. I've started to ponder what I want out of noise musick, what I can bring to it that I haven't already, and what people are interested in. I felt kind of lost.

Around when we were still in a seriously chaotic mess of moving, Mirkwood Recordings asked me to review Side Stepping The Abyss by Düne Kankel. The review really got lost in the chaos even though I really wanted to do it. I tried a few times and was put off by the album's leading track being over nine minutes. When I recorded some noise stuff earlier this week, using only my guitar and some effects due to my gear being scattered around our house and storage unit, I felt lost, out of touch. Maybe listening to a similar album could help me, so I decided to listen to Side Stepping The Abyss in full.


The cover art to Side Stepping The Abyss is a painting of mountains at night. Bats or birds fly over the snow-covered peaks. The art has a rough outsider feel to it, which, along with the subject matter, foreshadows the musick inside.

"And the Void Sings to Me" is the first track on the album, opening with a whirring rumble that goes into something that sounds akin to an out of tune merry-go-round in a Krautrock band. The song goes a number of times around this ride with some more dramatic variations. Every time, I can hear more of the sounds in the distance layered through mud and fog. Some solo-ish things appear like creatures struggling out of the mud, but nothing feels particularly focused. The production is very rough around the edges. A deathly voice calls out from the fog towards the end as various tones ring out. Unfortunately, I found this somewhat cheesy. It might be cool to you, though. "Ceremonial Dirge", the second song, plays out much quicker and, in my opinion, better. The song is what sounds like a tape, a slice of ambient air warblings, interrupted by bell chimes. It's eerie and effective. The production is much cleaner as well. "Creative Suffering" is a very loud song that reminds me of something I did on my album The UFO Cults of Satyr/Elfheim ("Sanat Kumara"). Both songs are not well produced and utilize loops of guitar loudness as an instrument. On "Creative Suffering", the guitar is a fuzz cannon with other flares of feedback noise appearing in other areas. The song plods along without many changes to the main riff. The guitar does drop out a bit and switch sides in the second half, and then it flanges into white noise before returning. The final moments combine shoegaze and black metal into a not-so-loud experience.

"Intrusive Thought" starts the second half of the album with more extreme loudness, ambiance, and wind torpedoes. There are some cool pulsations on this track, science-fiction machines from another planet. "Neurogeneric" is another looped-guitar experience. I like the song here, almost Tibetan and dancing about out of sync. There are some really cool layers here too. Unfortunately, the track is spoiled by the extreme volume and the thin distortion applied to the guitar after the first half. "Recovering Lost Soul Fragments" does some similar things as "Neurogeneric", though the guitar here is more rhythmic. Again, it reminds me of myself and various poor production jobs I have done over the years.The guitar sounds pretty cool, but I wish there was more than just the deep, darkness of bass reflections in a well. "Relapse, Relapse, Repeat" concludes the album with chilly spirit sounds that remind me of some of Kendra Smith's interludes. "Relapse, Relapse, Repeat" is brief, perhaps too brief, but it's a decent end to an unfortunately underwhelming release.

I did not enjoy Side Stepping The Abyss. I was initially intimidated by the song lengths on this release, and my listening experience followed suit, in a sense. The droning of "Creative Suffering" and "And the Void Sings to Me" rattle on and on for far too long. If these tracks were not excruciatingly loud, rough, and rumbling, they might work, but the production here is bare-bones and ragged. Side Stepping The Abyss is physically painful for me to listen to, at least with headphones. The tracks are way too far into the red for me to really experience in any capacity. I believe that this is the first album I've reviewed that I've ever skipped through some of the songs after a few minutes. As for the shorter songs, they're fine. Most seem more curated and carefully produced. The instruments and the way they interact are much more interesting on songs like "Neurogeneric" than on the longer pieces. Even the shorter tracks are extremely loud, though. Surprisingly, Side Stepping The Abyss has a listed producer, so this isn't just someone in their basement blasting a giant cabinet as I foolishly did when I was younger. I really wish that someone had taken a step back and thought about the usage of space and the element of composition during this creation. Without these things, there are some serious problems.

To get back to the beginning, these problems are, for me, problems with the noise genre itself. They at least make the genre uninteresting as a whole to me. In a live setting, this kind of stuff doesn't really come into play, and loudness can make for some excitement as long as you have, like, earplugs. I still think that composition or clever improvisation is important and, personally, I need some kind of space in a soundscape. For fans of black metal and harsh noise, you probably don't care about these things, and this album, and others like it, may appeal to you. It doesn't work for me at all.

Side Stepping The Abyss receives a Bad.

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