One Dark Eye is and always has been the solo project of Rodger Stella (Macronympha, Hollow Bush, Drug Knives). During the 1990s, while he was one of the two major forces during the classic era of Macronympha (alongside co-founder Joe Roemer), Stella began One Dark Eye as an exploration of more ambient textures and sounds that differed from the extreme harsh noise of Macronympha. An interesting example of a crossover between this material and Macro is the double LP released recently on the Premier Sang label… although it is a Macronympha release, it is almost entirely the work of Rodger Stella, and has some atmospheric similarities to some of the material on this CD. Still, this project is typified by a darkness, a morose aspect that is both beautiful and depressive (as reflected in the album’s title). Often, the sounds have a pleasing underwater sort of feel to them… the fact that all of the material was recorded directly to tape really shines through in the sound of “Manic Depression.” An interesting aspect of this release is that the material from the original “Manic Depression” tape was re-edited for CD by Dan Johanssen (Sewer Election guy and label-owner of Ljud & Bild Productions). The transfer from tape to digital format is clean and warm sounding, giving a unique sound to this disc that is quite pleasing.
Like in the early days of Macronympha, Stella actually plays guitar on a few of these tracks, although the sound is certainly not conventional in any sense. The guitar sound is used to make some very nice drones that definitely add a lot to the overall sound of the release. At the beginning of “A Feast Unknown,” a jarring female robot voice pops in several times at the beginning to make a request to the listener: “Give me a knife and I’ll cut your throat.” A lot of Stella’s work has a ‘fun’ kind of feeling to it, a sense of discovery, and here that is present as well but perhaps in a more muted and depressive form. The sound of the release is similar to the feeling of going deep into the human nervous system in order to perform microscopic surgery. Long passages of floating through the bloodstream and observing platelets and cells, strange shapes and colors floating by as a desolate ship flies containing only a pilot and supplies. Bursts of energy explode and create conflict, seemingly out of nowhere a wall of electronic noise explodes into open space. “Sky, Horse, And Death” is maybe my favorite track on here, perhaps the most pure example of the One Dark Eye (US) project overall. Originally the track was released on a split release with the Thirdorgan/Macronympha collaboration project OVMN.
The ghostly drone of the first section of “Sky, Horse, and Death” has a similar desolate feel to the one described earlier, this time colder and more evocative of outer-space… a lone ship floating far from home in a wilderness of asteroids and nothingness. This is some of the most evocative and emotional music produced by Stella from this era, exploring a deeply human conundrum of one’s self in the face of infinity. Through the sounds, One Dark Eye’s exploration into the void discovers a meaning and purpose through the mastering of solitude, and the extraordinary journey within. Overall, “Manic Depression” is an interesting release in the prolific canon of Rodger Stella’s noise and experimental audio tape work in the 1990s, and is presented here with the utmost care and attention to the preservation of the sounds contained within.
01. Red Harvest
02. A Feast Unknown
03. Sky, Horse, And Death
04. Visions Of Excess