Stryknin is a new — at least in terms of physical production — project from two gentlemen whom themselves appear to have had little experience, or at least success, releasing music from within the underground, though it appears that they have been active for a solid decade having formed in 2003. Regardless of their slow start, the project, formed by the Swedish Karl Ture Rydby and the current Londoner Erik Nyström, has now finally made their début in 2012 with this very limited CD-R, Transparens, on Old Europa Cafe. The project was once split into two separate entities: Stryknin, which was strictly a dark folk project with psych and neofolk influences, and Stryknin Y, which was purely experimental electronics. Though Stryknin Y has been the more successful of the two until now, having received two digital releases by Petroglyph Music and Het Donkse Oog, as well as a physical CD-R via Pale Noir in the past two years, both entities have recently come together under the name Stryknin. While little is known about Rydby, Nyström appears to, in his personal life, be an academic musician dedicated to the realm of acousmatics and its aesthetic qualities, thus seemingly explaining the roles of either musician in this strange but welcome partnership.
The infusion of post-industrial elements and random experimentation into psych, dark, or neofolk to create a strange but wonderful hybrid is nothing new. Plenty have walked that path prior, reaching all the way back to David Tibet‘s early experimentations, and many will continue to into the future. Increasingly though, it seems that the electronic side of neofolk is a creature whose days are numbered. There simply aren’t many new projects whom are interested in doing both — most appear to want one or the other. Stryknin, in this sense, is a special project. Not only are they putting equal focus into both sides of the coin, they are doing so with precision and a unique vision. The music on Transparens can range anywhere from the gloomy folk noir of early Naevus to the overwhelming depressive surrealism of David Galas / Lycia; from the enchanting and esoteric goth-folk of Neutral to the dreary landscapes of Northaunt and incredibly deep ambience of Bad Sector. Needless to say, this isn’t your traditional style of neofolk; simple, complex, or otherwise. Everything in the folk of Stryknin is underlined by a keen sense for production, specifically for the ways that subtle electronics can interact and weave around spacious guitar-and-vocal melodies, with a great example being “Gathering 69” which features verses that are accompanied by interludes of tidal electronics — purling softly back and forth, completing the sea-side-at-dusk melancholy that is present in the music.
“Later not Always” is a classic Bad Sector moment, featuring deep drones that are textured by buried bells, industrial metallic whispers, and an immense bottom end that seems more like an endless abyss than a pit. These intense, visceral electronic moments are somehow meditative and ritual in nature, unraveling some unknown emotion in me — something there that is difficult to put into words. This moment is mirrored in the final track, “Light by Light” — a nightmarish collage of fractured memories, becoming visible through vocals only in sparse moments between tension-filled drones and field recordings weirdness. Unfortunately the ambient textures aren’t without their negative aspects, as almost the entirety of “Of Paths” is dull and emotionless, seemingly void of inspiration. There are other influences that are only hinted at throughout the record though, such as in “Transparent”, when you’ll come to the realization of just how remarkably bass-heavy this album is through the familiar psychobilly bass line that has been heard many times before.
I wouldn’t say that there is anything profound about Transparens, nor do I believe that the artists are striving towards something of that caliber here. However, it is a solid début, and one where both artists involved chose to walk a far different path than those whom have come before them, perhaps simply creating the music that they want to hear themselves without the confinement of trying to assemble upon a specific style. The result is an impressive effort that has left me wondering why the hell a project like this would sit for 9 years before someone picked it up, and waiting for them to hit some sort of mature stride towards making their sound less of a random assortment of influences and more of a personally molded, recognizable sound that the word “Stryknin” is inevitably firmly affixed to. Well done.
03) Gathering 69
04) Later not Always
06) Of Paths
07) A Further Walk
08) Light by Light