Aldous RH – Seductive atmospheres (50/50 review part 1)

Patten’s Kaleidoscope label launches its 50/50 concept this week with Aldous RH (Egyptian Hip-Hop) and Vanilla Hammer sharing a release that seats each artist on opposite sides of a vinyl disc. patten makes it clear through the press release that there is no artistic connection between the artists and that any similarities or associations we might find between the two are purely coincidental. It’s a split release in the truest sense of the phrase, and it puts the listener in a precarious position. S/he would need to break any association with what ever comes before or after the music to truly appreciate it for what it is and not for any subjective relationships it might share with the other side. patten never goes in to much detail for the reasons behind the concept, but if you’ve ever read an interview with him or listened to his music, you would understand that a lot of thought goes in to everything he does, and 50/50, I assume would be no different. We can’t be sure if this particular project is in line with similar ideas of objective listening that has been found in his music, or if it is just a logistical practicality to have two artists share some expensive real estate, but there’s very little indication that practicalities are ever at the heart of anything patten. It puts the reviewer in a quandary however. If I reflect on one it will no-doubt influence my opinion on the other, so there is only one thing for it. To remain objective and impartial (like any review has ever been any of those things) and since these two sides are very different from each other, we would need to split it up into a two part review…

Aldous RH, also know for his work as part of Egyptian Hip Hop, creates a disquieting ambience as detuned chords and a whisper of beat call in Seductive Atmospheres with the title track. The dissonant textures that float over each other in swells of pads come together in a soothing execution with Aldous’ vocal disharmoniously serenading the listener while a bass guitar tries to anchor the various parts to something concrete like a chord. There’s something reassuringly off about Seductive Atmospheres. The ambiguous tones that tend to float around pitches, never settling on any them, create a comforting dissonance that draws you into the arrangements, while a conspicuous disquiet lies beyond the siren’s call. Aldous RH’s appeal essentially lies in his voice, which glides up to its pitches coyly, flirting with them rather than landing on them, luring the listener in to the songs. On a track like The Yearning Life, the result is that Aldous’ vocal pitches clash with that of the guitar in crisis as they forego obvious harmonies, on their way to some obscured view of a pop song – a pop song with abstract ideas of harmony melody and sound design. Patience is the way is Seductive atmospheres at its best in this regard. A mystifying psychedelic track, the vocal is almost an alien visitor to the track, continuously out of phase with the rest of the arrangements’ frequencies, like a television screen going out of focus into white noise. The result is almost hypnotic, a very captivating effect and it’s this type of unsettling charm where the major appeal lies in this EP.

Seductive Atmospheres are seductive as a result, but not for the reasons you’d think. The seductive atmospheres are caused by disillusioned ideas of pop music, like Johnny Jewel trapped in the Twin Peaks café, rather than something pleasantly alluring. The EP plays in atmospheres that are charming in a slight disturbing way, like some Victorian recordings of nursery rhymes tend to do today. There’s something incredibly sweet in the slightly unnerving compositions. It sets a tone, which I hope will continue through on the flip side, but I have to stop myself short because it evidently wont, according to the press release. I have to get some distance from Aldous RH before we commence with part 2 and delve into Vanilla Hammer’s Diss Patches