Ontogeny 1 is the first in a two-part series comprised of re-recorded tracks from Sixth Comm’s early years, covers, and a few old gems. It’s unusually difficult to review such an album, given Sixth Comm’s fluctuations in sound over the decades. Since his departure from Death in June in 1986, Patrick Leagas has been consistently inconsistent, recording under multiple monikers in a variety of genres. To be clear, that’s not a bad thing; however, it’s a legacy that’s fairly difficult to capture in a seven-track album, and even harder to pass judgment on.
It took several listens to pick up on the evolution of sound in Ontogeny 1. Beginning with a rework of “Sonfelte,” originally recorded in 1990, this is classic Sixth Comm. Samples of bells and chanting add a nice hollowness to a track that originally bristled with barely-restrained post-punk rage, but they also soften its bite. The difference is subtle, but it’s a fantastic example of how Leagas’ sound has evolved over the years. While the earlier version had the unmistakable ring of late ’80s/early ’90s production, the rework shows how small alterations can carry a signature sound into another century without compromise or loss of integrity. Granted, not all of the reworks run in a similar vein—”Doubt to Death Nym” draws plenty from the original and leaves very little new, for example—but when contrasted with the early recordings that follow it, it’s easy to hear the fine-tuning of a sound; a natural progression.
The album also features two covers of Kirlian Camera singles, “Blue Room” and “Drifting.” Though originally performed by female vocalists, Leagas’ morose vocals are perfectly suited to the electronic tracks. “Blue Room” in particular is a highlight, danceable but slightly abrasive, and a testament to the artist’s versatility; “Drifting” is pure goth night dance-floor fodder. No stranger to synthpop, Leagas remains relatively faithful to the originals while adding new depth and texture to tracks that might seem dated by today’s standards.
Ontogeny 1 is less a compendium than it is a showcase for Sixth Comm’s plasticity and progression, and it’s a mixed bag at times. Hardcore fans will find the release crucial; others, perhaps less so. In any case, it’s a worthwhile listen that shows just how adaptable the artist can be.
01) Sonfelte 2 (Rework 2013)
02) Red Cloak (Rework 2013)
03) Doubt to Death Nym (Rework 2010/2013)
04) Foretold6 (1988)
05) Neiflheim (1987)
06) Blue Room (Kirlian Camera Tribute Cover)
07) Drifting (Kirlian Camera Tribute Cover)