Album Review: Insect Ark - The Vanishing
Reviewed by Paul Hutchings
Multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter (Swans) formed Insect Ark in 2011. Schechter is known for numerous collaborations with Angels Of Light, Gnaw, Zeal & Ardor, Wrekmeister Harmonies or Årabrot, among others, her own projects Bee and Flower and Gifthorse. For this latest album she has paired up with drummer Andy Patterson (ex-SubRosa). Insect Ark are not your conventional two-piece; their music haunting instrumental psychedelic doom with an intimate yet icy feel.
Opener ‘Tectonic’ is a thunderous, sonically challenging composition, pulsing cosmic vibes combine with Patterson’s crashing drumming. This is followed by ‘Three Gates’, a sinister, twisted piece which moves at funeral pace, echoing effects harrow the listener before the track closes tightly, pulsing bass riffs underpin haunting, swirling soundscapes. Whilst segments of the tracks on ‘The Vanishing’ depart normal programming, there is an interconnection between bass, lap steel guitar, synths and drums throughout the album. Heaviness is ever present, but rather than achieve it with chaotic riffing, Insect Ark achieve it with sheer presence. ‘Philae’ is case in point, the glacial speed of the track compensated by the intensity, massively slow riffs presenting a crushing, suffocating approach.
By now, you’ll have established that ‘The Vanishing’ is not for all. Eerie, distant resonance echoes at the start of centrepiece ‘Danube’, the lap steel ringing faintly yet central to the piece. At times drifting off appears an option, but the swing soon reverts and draws the listener back in. Organic and natural, ‘Danube’’s ethereal feel drifts lazily before a crashing riff kickstarts the track at the latter quarter with a Floyd-esque feel.
After the shortest song ‘Swollen Sun’ we reach the climax, the ten minutes plus closing title track which ebbs and flows, the pulsing heartbeat maintaining flow throughout. Schechter commented “The album’s title refers to a daydream I had of disappearing completely – floating out to sea alone, never to return, or walking off down a road, and never being found. This idea has recurred throughout my life. On a much bigger level, it’s about the impermanence of life itself, trying to retain perspective of how small we really are, invisible in the bigger frame of time and history. We all will face this impermanence, even if we try to hide from it. The endless cycle of birth/death exists for all life forms, yet sometimes we forget we’re not immortal.”
Simple yet complex, ‘The Vanishing’ is an album that requires time to appreciate. It won’t appeal to all. If, however, you can appreciate the intensity and the dedication poured into this album, then rewards are great. Engineered by Colin Marston and supported by a wonderful piece of painting by French artist Sonia Merah, this is an album of marmite proportions. Dare you take the journey?
The Vanishing is released on 28 February on Profound Lore Records