Echoes of Yul – Cold Ground

Elongated drones with distant, scratchy voice samples that mutate around the tone are generally a brave introduction to a collection of recorded music. If however, the listener favours the innovative and the experimental, then “Octagon”, the first track on “Cold Ground” is stirring news. Echoes of Yul, essentially Michal Sliwa and Mateusz Czech, originate from Opole in Poland, and will challenge the listener with this latest release which can broadly be described as disquieting. “Foundations” is a writhing collusion of extended guitar riffs, drones and vocal samples that stalk the listener’s subconscious, upsetting them further with passages of dissonance and anguish.
“Look you’re hurt.....It’s nothing......You’re filthy...” creep voice samples eerily over ponderous riffs and desolate percussion on “The Tenant”, whilst “Numbers” is pushed laboriously onward over clanging chords and pummelling rhythm. Probably one of the more accessible pieces on the album “Libra”, features the characteristic riffs and enigmatic electronic effects, but pushes the tempo and vigour up, whilst incorporating the vocal samples into the music itself, as opposed to using them to enhance the overall atmospheres. “The Message” is to some extent evocative of the distorted hip hop collections put together by bassist and producer Bill Laswell, as the beats are pushed low down into the mire of the mix, which is dominated by inscrutable vocals and bass. “Chrome” incorporates a similar hip hop mentality but uses it as a vehicle for further monstrous riffs and daunting vignettes of voice and sound. The title track “Cold Ground” is perhaps the most varied journey on the album, as it features a number of sections welded together into a dignified opus of progressions, while the final “Chrome” is a ten minute passage of rite, as it features repeated phrases which accumulate into a crescendo of otherworldly sound and ambience.
There are several interludes throughout the collection, “Crosses”, “Haunebu” and “The Plane”, of unnatural tones and treated samples, which serve to bind the passages together. The drones and unyielding riffs never outstay their welcome, however, as many of the tracks on “Cold Ground” are no more than five minutes in length, and many of the melodies, despite being cloaked in a sinister shroud, are not unpleasant. There is a palpable sense that Echoes of Yul have shaped their world of sound using techniques and skills that have been borrowed from a variety of sources, but have been amalgamated together here into something that is worth attention due to its inventiveness. The cover art on “Cold Ground”, featuring images of animal/bird skeletons goes one step further in evoking the atmosphere of the release. The overall effect on the listener is one of reflection and contemplation, as although the components that come together to create “Cold Ground” are profoundly disturbing, the finished product has a beauty and a dignity that cannot help but captivate. (8/10)

John Toolan