Electronic label Soundtracking The Void is never one to release an artist that’s less than stellar. STV gives a stage to forward-thinking artists pushing the boundaries of their music and electronic music in general. The latest in their releases is no different. Say hello to Germany’s HRZL(aka Herzel.)
According the Herzel’s biography, “Born in Macedonia, Herzel is a key member of the local music and art scene. He played at renowned festivals and clubs around the globe and is a regular at Berlin club nights. Beside performing live, Herzel has released music on prestigious labels like Hivern Discs, Uncanny Valley, Biologic, Compost and Pinkman‘s sister label Charlois. He co-runs the record label Bran.”
On HRZL’s debut with Soundtracking The Void, titled Subtopia, the German-based artist takes electronic music and goes ethereal. A mixture of dark, sonic landscapes and almost industrial noise, HRZL explores the edges of experimental noise and field recordings(that is, if those recording were taken from inside a collapsing star.) Subtopia takes you to the edge, dangles you, then pulls you away from that humming void with hidden melodies.
Where to begin with Subtopia? At the beginning and proceed attentively. HRZL doesn’t make beat-driven songs on here. These tracks are layers of noise, as if shrinking and diving into some tactile mechanism. Like hearing from the inside the inner workings of a humming machine, a turn-of-the-century clock, or a meteor falling to earth. But he turns it all on its head, as just when you think you’ve stepped into the score to Eraserhead a sleek melody appears. A pulsing synth gives the cold sheen a beating heart. The songs become alive.
Opening track “Spaced Out” is the perfect opener, really. In some ways it puts me in mind of fellow STV artist Ffion. The song seems to emanate from an ancient cavern deep into the earth, like belching lava from a volcano. The intimidating darkness is given light with an ethereal synth melody. It’s a moody mixture of deep space exploration and dystopian landscape. “Purple Fields” puts me in mind of Entrancer’s more lighter vibes, the sound both playful and mysterious. “High Rise” sounds like pure sonic desolation. A walk thru darkness, searching for an escape from layers of hiss and wavering circuital dread.
Elsewhere “GeishaSeq” finds HRZL building upon bell-like tones and sparse musical construction. A very rhythmic, tactile track. Album closer “AAAAAA” floats along on a ghostly tone. A sort of whistle from beyond that seems to emanate from some psychic chasm. It’s like an ultrasound of deep space, or a far off universe we’ve yet to discover.
HRZL builds a fascinating sonic world in Subtopia. A mixture of ethereal, ambient, and melody that come together into something quite unique and mind-expanding.
7.8 out of 10
Subtopia is available now via Soundtracking The Void. Buy it both digitally or as a limited edition cassette here.