Italy and Poland are both home bases for a number of interesting musicians working in the genres of noise, neofolk, and electroacoustic music. It’s encouraging to see an Italian artist’s material released through a Polish label, as if the two countries might possibly form an axis of avant-garde music-making.
Davide del Col‘s Antikatechon has been released through Rage in Eden to this point; this latest album, Woe Is the Reward, is a series of dark ambient pieces which occasionally veer into power electronics territory and sometimes take on a new age sound. Many of the tracks involve big washes of reverb draped over long yet minimal instrumental loops. This basic structure creates an environment for various samples and field recordings, the best of which are whispered vocals deep in the mix.
All of the tracks on Woe Is the Reward are passable, but only a portion are noteworthy. The title track, number four in the program, and the sixth track, “Hostia,” are probably the cream of the crop as they channel more emotional energy than the rest.
Del Col’s use of art and titling throughout his career show that he does possess a fertile imagination and a flair for the evocative. A title such as Out Hunting for Teeth displays a special sort of sick humor, and del Col’s fondness for Latin titles plays to the sinister vibe that dark ambient music requires. The art on previous Antikatechon albums has featured decayed statuary, gothic architectural details, or samples of public-domain artwork. Woe Is the Reward comes adorned with shots of distressed and disembodied doll heads. None of this imagery may be especially new to fans of dark music, but the presentation of it implies a subtly different perspective (and it should be mentioned that the cover image of Antikatechon’s latest release, I Feel Nothing but Repulsion, is an admirable stroke of creep-mongering and is an advancement in del Col’s use of visuals).
It is this different perspective that might drive the better tracks on Woe Is the Reward to rise above the rest of the album. Throughout the entire program, there is the sense that del Cole could conjure up something remarkable, but even into the better material towards the end, that promise goes unfulfilled.
Even though Woe Is the Reward never manages to be great or fascinating, it does deliver a solid sense of mood and occasionally prompts strong mental scenery. The true downfall of the album is—woefully—in the production. The use of mp3s or some other data loss-crippled format in the construction of these tracks adds a distracting sizzle into important passages, undermining whatever impact the music might have had.
01) Departure from Light
02) Mirthless Perseverance
03) The Inner Accuser
04) Woe Is the Reward
05) Unbroken Siege