Land:Fire is Frank Merten and Henry Emich, a German duo otherwise known for their output as Herbst9. For whatever reason, the project has largely escaped my attention, but it is a nice counterpart to the weightier, more esoteric Herbst9. To these ears, Herbst9’s debut 1999 release, From a Dark Chasm Below, is an absolutely essential release in occult dark ambient. Land:Fire is more ‘contemporary’ and sits much more comfortably amongst the cold power electronics and heavy electronics stalwarts of Germany. This is in large part due to the heavier use of rhythm and structure as opposed to the spacious, reverb-drenched atmospheres of Herbst9.
Releases from the project have been few and far between. Early outings, such as 2004’s Physical : Mental : Psychological on Tesco Organisation, are not a far cry from Herbst9 material, grounded as they are in dark drone-based textures with sparse rhythms thrown in for good measure. Incandescent Sonic Lodge brings together two previous CD-R albums released by the duo’s own label, Shortwave Transmission: Live at Sonic Lodge (2006) and Incandescent (2007). The unsettling drone of their alter-ego is present, to be sure, but crunch and rhythm are brought to the fore: slow, methodical, and sinister.
The opening track, ‘Passing’, bubbles along with subtle persistence, pitting a deep two-tone synth line against very tasty crackle and pop. Extensive panning just barely alleviates the claustrophobic atmosphere; it’s an excellent start. ‘Heating’ relies almost solely on a persistent cyclical rhythm processed and filtered throughout the length of the track. It’s lovely stuff, but perhaps a little aimless. ‘Causing’, on the other hand, is beautifully unsettling: another dense synth spiral with minimal change, but with much greater urgency. It jostles for space with seething, spluttering noise and indistinct samples. The track is cinematic and hugely effective.
‘Releasing’ sputters along with unnervingly choppy vocal samples, wheezy drones, and a rusty, rolling rhythm. It’s subtle and restrained, and rounds out the ‘Incandescent’ offering very nicely.
Two lengthy live tracks conclude the album, ‘Pt1: 130_52k6_19’47”500’ and ‘Pt2: 140_52k6_20’13”437’. They highlight the limitations of performing this sort of music in a live environment, as much of it appears to be triggered samples and pre-recorded sounds. Of course, it’s difficult to achieve this level of complexity entirely live and it’s less of a distraction in this format. It’s still excellent stuff, and they pack an almighty punch with their crystal clear sound.
At the time of writing, Herbst9’s much-awaited double-disc release Fragmentary has just been released on Loki Foundation—four years after their last outing. With those feet firmly planted in the timeless mysteries of ancient civilisations, Land:Fire is a strong reminder of the pair’s equal talent in mining the mysteries of our present day.
05) Pt1: 130_52k6_19’47”500
06) Pt2: 140_52k6_20’13”437