Fescal ‎– Alchemical Wanderings

Label:
Time Released Sound ‎– TRS12
Format:
CD, Album, Limited Edition
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Tracklist

1 Alchemical Wanderings 50:37

Credits

Notes

Not an official tracklist. Interpretation by Richard Allen at acloserlisten, March 7, 2012. Subtracks are listed as: “Chime” (00:00), “Dark” (04:31), “Knock” (09:03), “Wind” (13:54), “Echo” (16:12), “Grow” (20:28), “Remember” (25:31), “Cheer” (29:46) ”Silent Night” (33:02) Knock (43:33) "Coda" (46:55) - http://acloserlisten.com/2012/03/07/fescal-alchemical-wanderings

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout: 10613B1 (SM1-C20118/2A)
  • Other (SID Mastering Code): IFPI LP50
  • Other (SID Mould Code): IFPI JU08

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D346357

D346357

March 2, 2013
edited over 2 years ago

An unexpected gem. When Fescal aka David Suyeong offered me the chance to review his first release of 2012, Alchemical Wanderings on the Time Released Sound label, I was more than willed to do it after the intriguing premise of a Drone record; and I did not even mention the gorgeous packaging – limited to 100 copies – which I have not experienced myself, but seen on many websites. Little did I know about the majesty and depth of the single 50+ minutes track which makes up the whole album, but is actually divided into eleven parts or subtracks. No track titles are given, and this missed opportunity caused a reviewer to take this matter in his own hands; I will provide greater details in the final paragraph. In order to respect the artist's original vision, I am going to add the respective number to each implied track. Fescal presents all known major styles of the genre, from misty whirls of enigmatic proportions over enchantingly balmy interpretations of the Pop Ambient formula to ecclesial synth hooks bathed in solemnity. Whatever the South Korean artist living in close proximity to Seoul delivers, he does it with great style and even manages to accomplish the depiction of counterintuitive dioramas: a warm, encapsulating winter landscape? Sure, it's on the album. A glaring Christmas song that is freed from all decade-lasting clichés and stereotypical mindsets? Yep, check. Glitzy bells and occasional guitar riffs are all in here, as are various ubiquitous pink noise splinters and retro vinyl crackles, but the real driving factor is the thickness of the several synth-related textures. The listener can submerge into their wideness, and never does an arrangement feel threatening or particularly dusky, though there are a few scattered instances. Brightness and coziness, however, are always outweighing the gloomier side. Moments of bliss are interwoven as well, but Alchemical Wanderings works on an aesthetically higher level by presenting calm structures which float along and are neither euphoric nor melancholic; the mood cannot be pinpointed exactly. Is this stylistic twilight the ultimate achievement of a Drone record? With these things in mind, I dive deeper into this great release.

The point of departure of Fescal’s wanderings launches with a bell-infused gong-fueled pink noise-tinted mirage. The deeply clinging chimes are the signature ingredients, but the slowly meandering and enthrallingly cozy synth aorta is at least as important, as it provides a wondrous fuzziness that wafts around the plinking opalescence; the latter is further revved up at the end as it merges with an electro-acoustic conglomeration of warped and warbled crystal shards of gelidness and the occasional glint of a Jazz-like cacophony. As the balmy luminescence of the chimes thins out, a counteracting motif appears: the second track boosts both the intimidation and pompousness of its textures, intertwining dusky drones with luckily equipollent emerald-green synth cascades and galactic brazen clangs whose reverb conflates with the hazy atmosphere. Despite its portentous title, the flow, deepness and profound aura are altogether resplendently blissful. The listener is completely encapsulated in these mellow synthscapes, and while their structure makes up the main attraction, the distant wind chimes are all the more important, for their incandescence transports an auroral ambiguity that lessens the darkness by adding scents of mystery to the scenery. While the following track #3 marries the doleful majesty of nostalgic synths in minor with the spectral sounds of braking trains in the distance and rounds these off with a second phase of an enchanting monotony of aqueously cherubic creeks, the poignantly counteracting track #4 places coruscant glass sounds in-between a grimly howling blizzard. The atmosphere is frosty and bleak, but confusingly silky. It remains curious to me why such coldness-evoking winter landscapes seem to be warmer and more inviting than Ambient compositions with darker undertones or melancholic settings. Maybe it is due to the pristine loftiness, the mood-less mood, so to speak, as track #4 really seems to be left at its own devices, not depicting any particular emotion and hence gaining its real strength and intriguing nucleus because of this notion. On track #5 the listener is surrounded by wadded synthetic clouds which waft along in a cautious manner. There is one particularly surprising element in there that has not been featured heretofore: an electric guitar. Its gently slapped strings echo through the fog which is itself replaced by a simmering stream that evokes the sound of falling rain. Fans of Chihei Hatakeyama, Minit or Ben Frost will rejoice.

It depends on the following track #6 to interweave a magnanimous dose of eeriness into the album for the first time, and even though the second track accomplished the same, number 6 doubles the effect with the help of a dissonant polyphony and its blatantly monotonous Drone structure. Containing the feelings of murkiness and solemnity, it is the latter which wins the prerogative of interpretation, as it is inherited by the golden-shimmering strings which grow in luminosity ever so slightly, but never outshine the metallic machinery in its entirety. The two feelings remain closely attached to each other. Track #7, on the other hand, ventures into nostalgic Pop Ambient climes, with light blue-colored whirling veils, a carved out yet blurred melody and an astonishing depiction of calm, tranquility and quiescence. The electric guitar is resurrected, and this time it seems to be out of place, at least to my mind, as the perfect balance is definitely lessened by the piercing two notes which occur from the second half onwards. I would have wished for a guitar-less panorama, as the song would have been all the more gorgeous then, but that’s a minor quibble and does not degrade the arrangement in the slightest. Aside from that, David Suyeong rectifies my complaint with the following offering: the particularly multilayered track #8 meshes a similar aurorally cloudy dreamscape with ghostly strings or whistles in high regions while retaining its peaceful superstructure. It is closely related to track #6, but does not include the guitar and is thus all the mellower. Next is the epic centerpiece of the album. it is running more than ten minutes and is so astonishing that I have to give its gimmick away – track #9 is a stretched Drone version of the Christmas classic Silent Night. No kidding! It is as saturated as it is serene, presenting the most voluminous, effervescent and mesmerizing church organs. It is slowed down to such a level that its syrupy kitsch is all of a sudden interpolated and transcended into truly celestial realms. Make no mistake, this is a magnificent interpretation which even the biggest hater is going to love. I don’t know how much work really went into the creation of this rendition; did Fescal just slow down an ecclesial take of it and added a few crackles, or did he set up the synth work himself? Regardless of the actual workflow, Silent Night is lachrymose! The penultimate track #10 is much thinner in comparison, but that’s expected, as it remains true to the intrinsic formula of Alchemical Wanderings. It presents distantly glowing synth washes of calm in the background that could well be an epilogue to the preceding track, while the final track #11 revisits the hibernal fragility and glitziness of a snowed up landscape. There’s not even a trace of bass attached to the glacial drones, all there is are crystalline refractions and a transfiguring ethereality that both end the album on a wonderfully content note.

David Suyeong has come up with a remarkable Drone album, with each and every subtrack of the album playing an equally important role, although some songs hark back on already introduced ideas, motifs and moods, but always add something intriguing in order to keep both the variety and coherence intact, a very difficult task on many different levels. Alchemical Wanderings succeeds and is simply delicious. Deep drones are admixed to lofty ones, Pop Ambient structures are divided by piercing guitars, Christmas traditions suddenly let even the greatest critics rub their eyes in astonishment. Warm Winter whirls, cozy coruscant clouds, languorous legato loops… whatever Fescal presents turns to rapture. The omnipresent vintage crackles are an old trick and statistically used on every third Drone album, but since they are always intact, they complement the respective soundscapes and become a transparent veil, an aorta or golden thread that constitutes and fuels the value of a track. The listener might be aware that he's listening to actual music due to the permanent hisses and crackles, but seriously, these aren't noticed anymore at a certain point. If there is one major flaw – and it has been debated on other releases since the market penetration of the compact disc – it is the long 50+ minutes track; despite the honorable motive and the didactive reason of asking the listener to be patient and to not skip a certain part in favor of listening to the album in full, I would have loved to select specific tracks whenever I'm in the mood for a particular atmosphere. Fescal is known for his long meandering tracks, but here we have the clear cut case that eleven compositions are artificially glued together. I know that David Suyeong wants to take a stand, but at least he should have given them names just because humans are so dependent on naming things. This is what Richard Allen did in his review at a closer listen in order to differentiate the moods. Mind you, the flaw of untitled, non-selectable tunes does not degrade the music in the slightest way, and so it happens that Alchemical Wanderings remains one of the very strongest Drone records I have ever encountered and resides among the cream of the crop of 2012 with ease. I'm deeply impressed! - Ambientexotica

"Alchemical Wanderings arrives in a mysteriously shaded bag and is accompanied by a tube of miscellaneous metals, befitting its title. Gold flecks have been mixed in, perhaps some pyrite and copper. Warning to children: Do Not Eat.

This mysterious air extends to the recording itself, from a South Korean artist who prefers to err on the side of anonymity. Even the tracks lack guideposts: they are referred to as a single piece, and are connected by a very thin thread of vinyl crackle that fades into silence at the end of each movement, only to start again at the beginning of the next. The submerged gongs and bells of the opening section lend the album an ancient air; but after only three minutes, they are joined by modern pings and pongs. A fade into nothingness at 4:30 is followed by the omnipotent crackle as it introduces a new set of tones. This pattern of reset and repeat imitates an experiment in which variables are changed one at a time in hopes of achieving the desired result. For the alchemists, it was turning lead into gold; for Fescal, it seems to be understanding through immersion.

Each sub-track possesses a slightly different timbre. For identification purposes, the elements can be separated into “Chime” (00:00), “Dark” (04:31), “Knock” (09:03), “Wind” (13:54), “Echo” (16:12), “Grow” (20:28), “Remember” (25:31), and “Cheer” (29:46). And then the most unpredictable element seeps from the speakers: ”Silent Night” (33:02). There’s no telling if this is intentional, or a happy occurrence; if random tones ever lead to something so structured and familiar. It would be a shame to learn that the artist was unaware of the chordal resemblance, as this is not only the album’s most stunning sequence, it’s also its raison d’etre: order rising from chaos, peace from turmoil. In this segment, the alchemical wanderings produce a destination; Fescal can finally lay his pyrite down. The piece then extends past melody into drone, as the notes are exhausted and sink into single-color couches. For once, the crackle remains constant, providing a bridge at 42:46. "Knock” appears again at 43:33. It’s as if Fescal is poring over his notes one last time before writing his scientific summary. The final fade leads to a free-standing section at 46:55 (“Coda”), in which we clearly hear the sound of a car driving by. There goes our scientist, thesis in tow" - A review by Richard Allen | acloserlisten

One of two new releases from local art-label Time Released Sound, the other, the second release from mysterious modern classical soundscaper Strie is reviewed elsewhere on this week's list, and this, the latest release from a South Korean soundscaper/dronescaper who calls himself Fescal, and this single 50 minute tracks is a beauty, all tinkling melodies and gauzy staticky haze, warm softly billowing drones, and distant smoldering atmospheres, the production gives it the feel of some antiquated recording recently unearthed, the music too is timeless in its own way, the sound shifting dramatically throughout, from hushed black ambient thrum, to warm almost chamber music, and from washed out soft focus psychedelic drift, to barely there blurred atmospheric shimmer, and all the indistinct stops in between. Fans of Machinefabriek and Jasper TX, of Tim Hecker and Philip Jeck, this is definitely for you. Like with all TRL releases, the packaging is fantastic and extravagant, LIMITED TO JUST 100 COPIES, the cd is housed in a hand worked black digipak, housed in a see-through anti-static bag, stickered on the front, with a pressed metal tag affixed to the bag with wire, inside there's a screw topped pyrex test tube containing metal and glass shavings, and inside the digipak are all manner of litmus strips, found artifacts, chemical notations as well as liner notes. ALREADY SOLD OUT AT THE LABEL AND OUT OF PRINT. We have 5 or 6 copies, and then these are gone for good! - Aquarius Records

Debates free-flowing, profluent thought processing fails by straying too far, imparts in runabout ordinations with traits of humans. Our willingness and adaptability is reflected in phases. Familiarity unbreached remains vital to grafting absorbtion of information. This reactivates semblance. But subsequent subdivision of thought processing associated with work, not enjoyment, creates wandering moments. Here plenty, including those in the Ambient music community, take a leaf out of Autumn’s book. We profuse the breeze like a wilted shade of red – hearty motion can be lost. The leaf taken can park on a double yellow of haphazardness. Several, in certain respects, lose direction at a stage. But if things go right, alchemy is there like a shot that lights up the dark.

How do we create those alchemies? The bread landing butter side up, where taste slides together in untainted harmony? Fescal, a sound artist, graphic designer and photographer from South Korea, is said to be looking for the perfect formula. And Fescal understands a fragile truth of alchemy: it’s partly playing one element against the other. This affects the end result of interpretation from the source. So an external impetus behind “Alchemical Wanderings” is also reliance on linearity causing psyche walkabout. To Fescal’s internal credit, he’s supplanted a connective for this line of alchemy: as James Kirby put for an interview on “Sadly, The Future Is No Longer What It Was, “to make less of a fast food style release”. Contrasting that subject’s grandiosity, Fescal maintains stylistic subtlety in length and feeling, letting the music wash over you like a well-needed shower. There’s no sudden moments, and the lightening of grace keeps “Alchemical Wanderings” from tee-totalling the murk of Hauntology, a sub category that unsettles to an extent instead of medicates.

Entirety of straightforwardness is also a continual characteristic of drone across decades. From your fridge hum to the forefront of Paul Bradley’s catalogue, drone is carefully handled in Fescal’s amplitudes. Fescal’s main counterbalance is a palatable transparency, seeing the layers as part of the whole, in a continuous 50 minute suite with little silence, all liquid hues and calming stewing. Resembling the space Ambient of Data Obscura parachuted to the more organic experiments of The Caretaker, intermingling chimes and electronic bleeps early on crumble a conundrum that alchemy is a time and patience exercise, as much as it is about making snap decisions, and acting on their consequences.

“The Beautiful Neurotic”, Fescal’s only other album, released on the aptly titled Camomille Music in 2010, was an even calmer affair in places, and it seems an affinity with morphing mandate of what’s usual for both artist, and alchemy of life’s mutations is a point of concern. The handing-down of the periodic tables’ elemental basis, where moodswings in humans catapult stability out of whack, is still shown in doctors getting medication doses wrong for their patients. For neurotics: declination to conforming to what’s inside the pill, or poison furnishes a loss of “alchemy” with the contracted subject matter. So to me a stone-set-ness of behaviour is the most fundamental alchemy we can hope for. As a pensive collection of drone and natural shades, “Alchemical Wanderings” happily sways amidst flow and full tube limit, balancing its compositional equation as effectively as an avid Ambient fan desires. Now we just need a solution for it selling all 100 limited edition copies, with hand stamped metallic tags, and a capped Pyrex test tube for each, containing some precious metals - A review by Mick Buckingham for Fluid Radio | 12th March, 2012

Fescal is a sonician who seems to prefer to stay low, the shadowy air surrounding him extending to the sound object, Alchemical Wanderings, which nestles in a mysteriously shaded bag with a tube of eponymously allusive metals, alchemical notations, litmus strips, and other magic matter. The title alludes to those ancient experimenters, and Fescal perhaps sees himself in an analogous role as a sound artist, seeking a formula for the transformation of base sonorities into emotional gold. It’s billed as a ‘return to our ambient/drone based roots’ by TRS, and indeed usual suspects like Jasper TX and Simon Scott, Tim Hecker and Philip Jeck spring to mind at various points during the passage of Alchemical Wanderings, whose sound seems time released in that it resonates on occasions as if channeling some superannuated 78 unearthed from a dusty loft space. Something of an epic inner voyage, whose parts, smeared into a kind of singlehood, hang together by thin threads of crackle, fading at the end of one stage, resuming with the next. Each fade-away segues via the ubiquitous crackle strand into a renewed tone set, a reset-repeat pattern suggesting variables being altered in an experimental procedure. A submersion of gongs and bells endows the opening with an atavistic air, dispelled by an admixture of electronic pings, an old-new blending leitmotif, each section with a slightly different timbral turn – most notable the strains of “Silent Night” seeping through just after halfway (whether the product of authorial intent or a small miracle of indeterminacy’s agency is otiose). Ultimately, Fescal’s wanderings may not be truly alchemical, but they are transformative, characterized by felicitous juxtapositions, elements serendipitously played off against each other—interstellar twinklings preserved in a gauzy static aspic, distant fires burning in a blowback of billowing drones, the whole shifting throughout from a kind of hush to dark ambient and chamber-esque, from washed out digi-noise to soft focus psychoactive drift and barely-there atmo-blur - Igloo Magazine.

Fescal (real name David Suyeong) is an experimental musician and producer of audio, self-taught graphic designer, photographer and visual creator residing north of Seoul, South Korea. Classically trained as a musician, Fescal has worked with various forms of exploratory media for a number of years and plans to continue to do so in the future. The first thing you'll notice about 'Alchemical Wanderings' is the elaborate packaging. It comes in a see through anti static bag with hand-stamped metallic tag. (Something you'd expect to get an electronic component in, like a circuit board or hard-drive.) It also comes with a 5'³ screw capped pyrex test tube containing a secret TRS blend of semi precious and precious metals, glass and other transposed particulate matter, litmus paper, periodic table of elements, and instructions for 'Exercise 73,' Qualitative Separation of Lead, Silver and Mercury. The CD itself comes in a hand-worked black digipak. This package is numbered and limited to only 100. (Mine was #7, if you care.)

Science kit aside (although it makes a nice collectible) the album is ambient much in the way of Alio Die, Vidna Obmana, and maybe to an extent Brian Eno, and yet in places unlike them too. While not dealing strictly in drone, the album has an overall placid feel with elongated sustain of atmospheres that can be construed as drone-like. There is one long track (50:30) comprised of episodes with brief space between them. There is enough variety between these ambiences to keep things interesting and non-monotonous. In fact, as drone-based ambient albums go, this one leans toward the superb side. There is only one problem- throughout the album is the (faux) sound of vinyl on a turntable, as if you're listening to a record instead of a CD, or a record that was transferred to CD. Purists may find this quite annoying. On my first listen I found it so distracting that it was all I could think about. I remembered why I stopped listening to my ambient albums on vinyl, as over time the snap, crackle, pop just became a nuisance and distraction. I'm sure it was Fescal's intention to incorporate the vinyl listening experience into the sound of 'Alchemical Wanderings,' but to me it seems as though the purpose would have been better served releasing it on record rather than disc and let it occur naturally. The one advantage is that it won't get any worse or more predominant as it could on vinyl. If the music wasn't so subtle I could abide it, but there is no question that the stylus-on-plastic effect cannot be easily overlooked. Perhaps over time and repeated listenings one may become used to it, but I for one would have preferred a cleaner sound.

Still, this is a worthy effort, and probably worth owning as its limited release and unusual packaging will assure this one increases in value over time - Chain DLK Steve Mecca http://igloomag.com/features/top-releases-of-twenty-twelve = Igloo magazine include 'Alchemical Wanderings'
Roger75

Roger75

March 8, 2012
nice packaging. I'm enjoying the production quality too. Good work here
Leovan

Leovan

March 8, 2012
Sounds wonderful, very pleasant
thomaszk

thomaszk

March 8, 2012
edited over 3 years ago
love it