Artist: Labyrinthian Exploration
Released: June 6, 2023
Emerging from a would be tangle of cords as thick and confusing as the Appalachian forests J.A. Gillenwater, the brain behind experimental electronic act Emulsifier, makes the ironic experiment of the experimental. Labyrinthian Exploration, the debut full-release of Emulsifier, comes about from an improvisational act following the first plug-in of the Moog Minitaur, then feed through a collection of pedals (for those not in the know, Moog was the first commercial synthesizer first created by Robert Moog). What follows is not only an exploration of a new piece of equipment, but of sonic range and texturing that feels as wondrous as it does investigative, all surrounding the theme of a labyrinth, inspired no doubt by the model of the Moog, resplendent with a snippet of a dungeon crawling synopsis that goes toward setting the tone of adventure.
Upon first experiencing this work, Labyrinthian Exploration, seems extraordinarily daunting and near overwhelming. From the Black Metal stylized logo and the beautifully complex and cerebral album artwork, to the impressive tracklist and run time, it feels like Emulsifier will grip you from the first, and melt your brain with intensity. While it is true of the former, A Path Into The Stone Appeared To Us is a gripping first track in its own right, Emulsifier chooses to subvert expectations of a harsh presentation with an unsettling opening that bubbles under the surface with tension and a near existential dread felt only in reading the tales of Weird Horror master Machen or Blackwood. There is an echo of Black Mountain Transmitter, yet it remains wholly original in that there is a progression beyond the tension and dread to the truly wondourus and fantastical. Forward is Forward is a perfect track in articulation of this point, as the feeling shifts with the tonal modality into one that is more progressively investigative and almost playful in its near Sci-Fi camp exploration of sound that remains, oddly enough, in line with the preceding track.
Emulsifier goes on to display the prowess of his improvisational skills, well developed over a half dozen other shorter releases, moving forward, to retreat rear back into a familiar yet strikingly unfamiliar territory. We Are Not Alone being another delve into the Weird and uncomfortable only more grating this go around, with a sustain of several songs until the violence of Gored. We are then. Given a reprieve and a smattering of hope, as Emulsifier eases the tension on the vibrating thrum that was cleverly creating an atmosphere of claustrophobia that went unnoticed until the reprieve. This gives tracks like, Sunlight Shining Through Cracked Stone extra weight, perhaps more so then it’s bass driven counterparts in that it creates a space for the listener to explore the sound in a thought provoking manner rather than experience it through an emotionally elicited response. This is also where Emulsifier excels in soliciting a repeat listen through craftsmanship of the noise, the desire to re-experience and explore what felt controlled before, something that made all the more impressive and a delisted more desired when one considers this nuance was not contrived through meticulous planning but rather musical instinct.
Another truly interesting about Emulsifier’s work in Labyrinthian Exploration is that it is not quite categorical in a strict genre sense of the term. There are elements of Drone and Ambient, mixed with Dungeon Synth and Electronica. While this may seem a hodgepodge- a veritable, “I’m going to throw a bunch of shit at the wall and see what sticks”, what it comes down to in the end is blending and simplicity, which Emulsifier has in spades. He is able to seamlessly move throughout genres while blending them together, or isolating certain portions to hone in for a moment or two, before mixing them up again-much akin to World’s End Girlfriend. This comes from a talented ear that spends a lot of time listening to music, and probably even more time fiddling around with it in some capacity or another to the point of near obsession. While this ends up working beautifully for these improvisational releases, I would be very much interested in seeing what a plotted release would look like in Emulsifiers more than capable hands.
Be righteous by listening to and supporting Emulsifier on Bandcamp