OSCILLOTRON – Eclipse – Cine 06
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Oscillotron is the Solo Project of David Johannson hailing from Sweden. Oscillotron´s Debut Album „Eclipse“ is a Soundtrack reminiscent of old Horror Prog Rock fleshed out into ambient dreamstate! 6 Tracks made essentially with analog equipment for fans of Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, Zombi, Fabio Frizzi or Wendy Carlos.
SSG Music / USA
This is not feel-good music. It’s not that you’d expect an album that feels like sunshine and warm puppies from the solo project of sludge/doom metal band frontman David Johnassen, but the dark world he paints with his solo project Oscillotron seems more tailored for Halloween on Solaris than for human ears. Eclipse is pop’s nemesis. Grating and evil, the keyboard, organ, drums and other synth sounds do whatever they want. Sometimes a song will sound like a song, with a discernible melody and beat. Other times, you’re not listening to music, but wrapped in dreams of drowning and flying.
Although “Eclipse” is Oscillotron’s debut, retro is the name of the game. It’d be remiss not to state the obvious—all six songs are built to be the soundtrack to a horror film. Fittingly, vintage synthesizers are used to create this throwback sound. This instrumental prog album softly crawls from the ambient shadows of the opening tracks into the fast beats of a real thriller.
It does seem like Johnassen could have created just one haunted, tortured track to encompass the tone and terrifying world of Eclipse. Six songs seem indulgent, and it takes impressive dedication to eerie instrumental electronic music to stick it out until the very end. However, the album asks to be considered as a progressing story.
Maybe it doesn’t take the full nine months (in fact, more like six minutes and 16 seconds), but the opening number “Embryo” takes its sweet time in evolving. The union of whale-like noises and sloshing liquid can be relaxing or (probably more accurately considering the context) merely sounds of the impending doom. The title of the song and sinister, minimal organ notes reveal that the true horror story here is called Life—the process of coming into this dangerous world. The notes are tentative, probing, and the predominant tone of the song is wonder, rather than outright fear. The song’s sparseness leaves a lot to the imagination. “Embryo” lulls us into a false sense of security.
The comforting waves of water and soft nature of the first song are dashed immediately as the second song dawns. “Dawn” is the haunted mansion in the landscape of the album, with uncomfortable chords that make you squirm. Its random notes create an evil dissonance. It’s the music that plays when you know the monster is encroaching on the main character, and it’s only a matter of time… You’d watch this part of the story through your fingers as the song builds even more overwhelming layers. A deep, bass line sets a somber beat while the organ gets higher and more intense. Then everything suddenly stops—unresolved.
“Oracle” is the heroic, climactic fight of the horror story. It’s less ambient than its predecessors; fast paced with what sounds like non-electric drumming and synths—more adventure film than graveyard. “Assembly” follows along these lines. Like much of the album, the note sequences are too random to sound completely like a melody. However, the song is a little fanciful—reminiscent of a delicate piano composition. The higher, sparkling notes are whimsical and airy. It’s a nice (though bone-chilling) oasis for the ears in the middle of such a menacing album.
By title alone, you’d think “Terror” would be the most gothic, blood-and-guts, slasher-like track. It starts in a surprisingly gentle, minimal manner, but by the time the droning song finally reaches its ending at 8:35, the crashing bass, the tauntingly minor melodies and layered drums become more complex. It’s building up to the crowning song “Eclipse.” The song is perfect blend of the rest of the album. It pulls the watery effects back in, fast beats and reverberating notes. The song is industrial, full of jarring, eardrum-scraping, mechanical squeaks.
“Eclipse” does not aim to please. The album has no happy ending. The final song simply fades out, leaving you on edge. The album is certainly oriented for producing tones and feelings rather than songs. In this way, it’s hard to imagine the casual setting this album could be playing in. You’d probably have to be performing an alien autopsy to use Eclipse as mood music. And if the slow, atmospheric songs start lulling you to sleep, be prepared for the nightmares.
The Active Listener / Sweden
“Eclipse” is the debut release by Oscillotron, otherwise known as Kongh frontman David Johansson.
In true sideproject fashion, Johnasson has veered off on a tangent here from his Kongh work and instead offers us a solo instrumental analogue synthesizer album to add to the ever growing canon of Tangerine Dream / John Carpenter disciples.
Nothing that hasn’t been done before admittedly but Johansson mixes his influences very very well, resulting in an album that sits comfortably among it’s forefathers in a way that not many followers have managed of late.
“Embryo” sets the mood well, a sinister piece of percussion-free ambience with swells of radiophonic synthesized organ. The foreboding atmosphere is almost everpresent, only abating briefly for the Eno-esque cascades that lull the listener into a false sense of security on “Terror” before the percussion ushers in a funereal march which sits somewhere between early eighties Fabio Frizzi and John Carpenter in a very bad mood.
Always atmospheric and often evocative, this is not music for the masses, but a tribute to the best of Italian prog horror soundtracks made by a fan for other fans. You know who you are.
Well worth a listen if you’re an analogue synth buff.
Sludgefactory / Australia
Analogue electronica and doom metal. Do they go hand in hand? Not exactly, but as of this record, I can see the connection. Obviously it didn’t take David Johansson of KONGH quite as long as it took me. Sweden’s Johansson moonlights as OSCILLOTRON, a guise under which he crafts a genuinely creepy breed of pissed off instrumental horror-synth. Sounds ridiculous, right? It’s not. If MATT PIKE’s brain was transplanted C-grade horror movie style into BRIAN ENO’s body, this is what the resulting mutant would spit out from behind a keyboard. Yeah, it’s badass.
The record kicks off with ‘Embryo,’ which sounds more or less like a sunrise underwater. It’s the most serene track on the record, and lulls the listener into a womb-like sense of false security. Just as you’re feeling comfortable, minimal synth work gives way to a few unnerving, alien tones. Things slide into ‘Dawn,’ and the whole thing gets a whole lot creepier. Discordant tones give off a ‘War of The Worlds’ vibe, and it’s here all those carefully sourced vintage synthesisers pay off. The first few times I listened to this record, all I could hear was a horror movie soundtrack. I’m getting that less so now, but even still this track has me envisioning Tripods stomping all over a bunch of cars. The pace steps up with ‘Oracle,’ which features either a live drummer or the best programming ever. Things settle into a hypnotic, ambient groove and unless I’m really in the zone this record slowly begins to wash over me.
It’s not that ‘Eclipse’ is overly repetitive, or suddenly becomes less interesting, there just seems to be only so much horror-synth I can fully appreciate. The last three tracks on the album are excellent, but unless I’ve got them turned up really loud in a dark room it’s far too easy to get distracted. The keyword here is subtlety. Without the in-your-face heaviness of KONGH’s doom-laden sound, these songs don’t manage to be particularly gripping over an extended period of time. And here we’re back to the horror movie soundtrack comparison: if these tracks were played alongside footage of flesh-feasting zombies or limb-hacking evil magicians, they’d probably find a more impressive context.
As it stands, this record is very solid. Fans of stoner, doom and sludge metal will find something enticingly dark in these songs, which is unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in the genre. If you were to get super stoned, climb in bed and put this on really loud, you’d be in for a hell of an experience. In terms of everyday listening it’s still great, but for me at least, it’s hard to give the entire record the attention it deserves.
I’ve fared better stating at the halfway point. The tense build of ‘Terror’ and the raw power of ‘Eclipse’ make the latter half of the record possibly more impressive than the former, but in that case I feel like I’m missing out on most of the context. This record is meant to be digested in one go, and every listen I get closer.
Honestly, I’d recommend checking this one out even if electronica isn’t your thing. There’s something more interesting at play here, and it deserves your attention.
Sea of Tranquility / UK
Eclipse’s press release proclaims the “intent behind the album was to create a soundscape reminiscent of old horror prog rock fleshed out into an ambient dreamstate.”
Well stated — and appreciated. The bare essentials presented here are: analog, electronic, instrumental. Operating as Oscillotron, Kongh’s vocalist-guitarist David Johansson is the newest addition to the increasing ranks of electronic progressive instrumentalists who continue to chart new paths on maps initially laid out by Tangerine Dream, Goblin, creepmeister John Carpenter’s homegrown soundtracks, and the lauded fare of Italian film composer-synthesist Fabio Frizzi.
“Embryo” harks back to Mark Shreeve’s early ’80s album of the same name. The six-minute opener is a similarly effected backdrop of sustained analog bass encroaching on a pool of liquid sound. Many electronic albums are prefaced by such a track, and the result is usually palatable if not remarkable. “Dawn” introduces a spectral organ over a skeletal rhythm represented by the most heavily-reverbed snare sample in recording history. Instrumental rock masters Moore & Paterra, a.k.a. Zombilook on in approval as the album gathers steam with “Oracle.” The percolating anchor sequence, pulsating rock drumbeat and booming crescendo are well-worn Zombi playbook staples that never get. The track’s last section, an arpeggiated powering-down on a wonderfully soupy string patch, is a nice if unintentional nod to a Patrick O’Hearn rarity called “Malone’s Jump.”
Also more generous with its noteplay than the first two tracks, “Assembly” is quasi-Teutonic in a sweetly Tangram-esque fashion, proving wearing your influences proudly on your sleeves can be a good thing in some instances. John Carpenter’s minimalist approach manifests itself on “Terror,” a plodding eight-minute-plus tapestry of deep bass, savory sine wave pads and a squarely Carpenter-ian component: the mantra of the quarter-note kick drum with noother percussive bits. The album’s title composition continues in this spacious fashion with a crystalline tintinnabulation and an ominous Moog bass pattern spelling out impending doom for the forsaken.
Eclipse proves to be an all-around stimulating outing of velvety textures and slithering sonics. It’s safe to conclude Johansson treads no new ground, but like Morte Macabre, Umberto and Zombi’s Steve Moore prove over and over, this is an ongoing theme for which listeners never risk losing their yearning.
Seba Rashii Culture / Blog
With Halloween being the prime season for scares this atmospheric delight from Oscillotron makes the perfect companion for a nights antics and not only that it’s excellent as well. With the intent of creating ‘a sound scape reminiscent of old horror prog rock fleshed out into an ambient dream state’, (to quote it’s creator David Johansson), Eclipse is a perfect listen for a dark evening of the soul. The album opens with the brooding synth of Embryo, a six minute slice of dark musings on the midnight hour that easily fits the dream state intended for the recording. The record gets moodier with the heavier, gothic organ infused tones of Dawn and continues this ascent on the almost joyous Oracle.
As the longest track on the album it’s a key point in the experience and it’s certainly a more organic, coolly joyous listen. The analog synth proves it’s worth here, the warmth from it’s tones a highlight of the whole album. Once you reach Assembly, it’s easy to reel off a list of key figures in the ambient music world but that would be… too easy. The melodic sequence is one that simultaneously impresses with it’s emotional depth, suffusing a vibrant hope with an impending sense of dread, yet continues the story of the record perfectly.
Once Terror opens with it’s ambient keys, continuing the sense of loss imbued in Assembly, it soon grows into a much more muscular entity as the programming ups it’s game and provides a chase sequence to end the imaginary movie this music should surely soundtrack. But ultimately it’s a watery end for the album as the ever present sound of trickling water mixes with a heavy barrage of clinical synth effects and warning sirens to make a gripping ride towards the end of the soundtrack.
Indeed it’s an album that grows on you just as a film might, with the small touches as impressive as the overall Gothic feel of the music. Timed for release just after Halloween has lifted it’s veil from the world Eclipse is well worth a listen.
Disagreement.net / Luxembourg
It’s been over three years ago when I was overwhelmed by Swedish doom sludge band Kongh’s second album Shadows Of The Shapeless. When I recently received an email by their frontman David Johansson to review the first longplayer of his solo project Oscillotron, I was not only intrigued because of his former great work, but even more so because Eclipse is supposed to be performed mainly on vintage synthesizers.
So instead of being in charge of vocals, guitar and lately also bass, Johansson quietly constructs six rather long tracks that feel like an authentic sonic journey through his most different emotions. Starting with Embryo, we get six minutes of not that much happening, but repeated listening will give you the impression of calmly being a, well, embryo again, swimming leisurely in amniotic fluid. The synth lines are really soothing, and all the while splashing water sounds can be heard bubbling in the background. But towards the end, an ominous down-tuned lead synth prepares for the more fleshed out moods of Dawn, still a rather unprepossessing piece of music, but with its delay-heavy synth notes, it’s already pointing the way into what will come next. And then it happens: the eight minute long Oracle is a miraculous piece of sequencer programming, combining the ethereal beauty of early Seventies Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre with ominous wide-screen synthesizers reminiscent of early Eighties Rush. There are even drums featured on this track, either played by a real person or just incredibly well programmed. I do love the oscillating bass line running through the song, creating a wonderful backdrop for the melodic sequences. Assembly is another fine piece of sequencer craft, this time feeling a little more light-mooded, and why not?, considering that the final two tracks are digging deep into the darkness again. Terror is the longest track on the album, running well over eight minutes. Its first half doesn’t give its title justice, instead it’s a devastatingly sad piece of music, before the second half adds some droning synth bass lines that definitely arouse feelings of claustrophobia. The album ends with the title track Eclipse which comes with demented square wave synth rhythms that sound as if coming straight from the insane asylum.
While Eclipse couldn’t be any more different from David Johansson’s Kongh material, there are also some parallels. Band and project both sound very dark and desolate, even though Oscillotron finds more space for happier moments. In the end, I can only advise you to close your eyes when listening to Eclipse, and you will feel like being immersed into the soundtrack of a science fiction movie from the Seventies or Eighties. Unlike many other vintage electronic artists, David Johansson fortunately lacks the esoteric new-age mysticism that all too often destroys any otherwise good idea. Instead he uses the old equipment to create some kind of psychedelic electro prog that should find its audience with the electro faction as well as with sludge/doom fans interested in what else their mastermind is doing these days.