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Kowä Axis & Pale World – Niche Field

Kowä Axis & Pale World
Niche Field
by Santiago Puyol at 06 January 2020, 11:23 PM

I have to admit that listening to "Niche Field" while recovering from a high fever-inducing infection was quite an experience. This is a surreal and at times sinister yet hypnotic release. This collaborative effort by British guitar improvisation outfits KOWÄ AXIS and PALE WORLD is an abrasive and moody Dark Ambient/Noise journey. One with a lot of rough edges and piercing, almost painful sections at times, but one that feels intriguing in its menace. Still, if you are looking for traditional songs, now it is the time to look the other way.

Reviewing albums like this is always a challenge, almost as much as listening to them. This becomes even truer when considering the improvisational nature of the project. It is purposely harsh and difficult, albeit not in a complex way, but in a completely detached from traditional songwriting kind of way. It will not be memorable, because it does not want to be. There are no clear parameters to evaluate something like this.

It comes down to feel, mostly. Moreover, I am not particularly obsessed with ratings; when it comes to albums like this, I want to make it even clearer: the numbers at the bottom should be the least of your concerns.

This an hour-and-a-half record is divided in four tracks, named in an ordinal way following track number, so we get "Primary," "Secondary," "Tertiary" and "Quaternary." As a whole, this album is a mixture of Dark Ambient, pure Noise and Drone, wrapped up in an experimental and improvisational vibe.

Tearing apart each track feels like a pointless exercise, still some notes can be made. "Secondary" is the darkest of the four lengthy improvisations here; it feels certainly evil and gets to stab your ears with bursts of piercing noise. At times, when it gets a little less free flowing it sounds almost like a deconstructed Industrial track.

"Primary" is the quietest of all, mainly consisting of hypnotic feedback. In a way, it makes sense as the first track here, easing the listener into the experience; or being at least as palatable as things might get here.

"Tertiary" and "Quaternary" get vaguely melodic at points, a little closer to the noisier, more experimental moments of Post-Rock bands like GODSPEED YOU! BLACK EMPEROR, especially on their earlier days. While the former gets engulfed by feedback and noise through most of it, the latter feels more meditative and contemplative than the other tracks.

Production-wise the album almost excels at building its oppressive, dark and at times nightmare-inducing atmosphere. Although things get a little muddy and the mix could be a bit more playful, still it does a great job, as it is a crucial one on records like this.

Overall, "Niche Field" feels adeptly titled considering its abrasive, gloomy nature. It is not an album for everyone, both because of its approach to music itself and its length. But if you are looking for a somber and meditative way to get lost in sound for an hour and a half, this might be a worthy addition to your collection. Or at least, worth to check out.

Songwriting: 6
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 4
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Primary
2. Secondary
3. Tertiary
4. Quaternary
James Barry (Kowä Axis) – Guitars
Joe Parkes (Pale World) – Guitars
Record Label: Trepanation Recordings


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