Semiomime – From Memory (2011)
The Semiomime debut album From Memory is Noel Wessels in imagistic scene-painting mode, one rather different from the hard drum’n’bass he crafts under the DJ Hidden name and the hardcore tracks he produces as part of The Outside Agency (the Holland native began creating music and DJing in the mid-‘90s). The Semiomime project does represent, however, a natural extension of Wessels’ DJ side as From Memory, even though largely free of drum’n’bass patterns (some hint of the style does surface during “Gnosis” and “Transistor”) and hard breaks, does exemplify a DJ-like sensibility in the way it moves through its seventeen episodes. Conceived by Wessel to be a “soundtrack to an imaginary movie,” the project is designed for immersive headphones listening.
Yes, it’s a concept album of sorts (even conceived of as a three-part work) that appears to follow an unidentified protagonist’s dream-like plunge into an alternate reality, one located underground where stalactites hang from cave ceilings and where Mole Children reside (a description consistent with the cover illustration). From Memory opens with “Unveiled” wherein the tumult of the world slowly recedes (captured in field recordings) until all that remains are stately keyboard patterns and steely whooshes that facilitate the listener’s absorption into a dream-state. If there’s a unifying thread, it would have to be the piano, which assumes a dominant presence in a number of pieces. A reflective, downcast mood takes over during “Remembering” when brooding piano melodies and field recordings of rain appear, and despite the relative prettiness of piano playing, creepy ambient noises in “The Mole Children” hint that we’re in alien territory. An orchestral detour occurs during “Parade” when symphonic strings and woodwinds take over, eventually growing into a whirling dervish-like dance episode. The mix of electronics, beats, piano, and strings in “The Exquisites” invites comparison to the work of Amon Tobin in his tendency to weave elements into arrangements of incredible density (there’s even, dare I say, something a tad prog-like about “The Exquisites”). That a piece such as “Eidolon” is a fleeting interlude matters little when the collage unfolds as an uninterrupted, seventy-five-minute travelogue of multiple moods (the sum-total includes a six-minute hidden track, “Late Night Highways,” that materializes eleven minutes after the album proper ends). textura