[Album Review] Psychic Pollution- Tanz Für Dunklen Seelen (Dance for Dark Souls)
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psychicpollution
Release Date: January 16, 2016
Label: Shake! Records/Eat Glass Records

The concept of a concept album is something I am always excited about.  It’s a treat to listen to a group of tracks with explicit thematic unity between them, and also to see where an artist’s unique brand of creativity allows them to work within the structures of the concept they choose to pay homage to.  So I was very stoked at the opportunity to sit back and listen to Psychic Pollution’s, Tanz Für Dunklen Seelen (English translation: Dance for Dark Souls.)  It is the Victoria-based artist’s 7th full-length LP, and a conceptual salute to some influential German-electronic composers of years gone by.  Occupying frameworks of bands like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Klaus Schulze to name a few, this deceptively nostalgic album also contains some stylistic elements indicative of its contemporary origins and the unique sound-stamp that is Psychic Pollution. 

We open with Animatronic Soldat Marz (Animatronic Soldier March), a great intro piece to ease beginner ears into this genre.  With only a few distinct layers to focus on, the song commences with a slow trudge of bassline oscillation of paired notes and some chill ornamentation.  We have entered the very atmospheric, timewarp-ish realms of this album.

Origin Plannet Spiegelt Ein Trauriges Licht (Origin Planet Reflects a Sad Light) was one favorite piece of mine.  A coagulated beginning soon dissolves, making room for multiple layers of fuzz and a gentle piano fumbling through near-pentatonic realms.  The piano at times syncs to, and then dissolves from a synth pulsating a steady low C. note  It is a dreamy, foggy, song, evoking not-quite-graspable things, like smoke through your fingertips. 

Another, Angst In Pursuit (Fear in Pursuit) was a song I enjoyed for its great juxtaposition to the rest of the album.  The timing of the repeating bass spliced with all other synthy layers, changing in such fleeting, subtle ways, there then gone, had me considering the possibility of auditory hallucinations. 

Ein Neues Zuhause Gefunden (A New Home Found) was the strangest, and hardest to pinpoint track.  I can’t say what I thought this song was trying to convey.  It was spacey to say the least, navigating a spectrum of emotion of something very non-human.

Though I might use the word ‘minimal,’ to describe this album, I feel the best kind of minimal, of which this is, requires an understanding of intricacy and careful attention to craftsmanship.  With “minimal” there is no tolerance for sloppiness because everything lingers.  Every particle of sound is felt, and even the subtlest effects hold influence.  I suspect a lot of thought went into the ordering of these tracks.  There is a nice contrast between them all, and an overall kind of story-arch expressed in their arrangement.

Not just anyone can take a jab at composing songs in the style of the early Berlin School of Music, it takes serious fluency, and Tanz Für Dunklen Seelen shows Psychic Pollution’s mastery in precision.  There is a favor here for a quality control leaning towards calculation over experimentation, and this makes this album much more accessible to a listener.  (Don’t worry though, it’s still super weird.) It’s a great nod and thank you to a Kraut-era loved by many and misunderstood by many more, but cleaned up and polished, ready to rock in the 21st century.