dw041 - Formication - Agnosia

EtherREAL - Fabrice Allard (c) 2008
After the album, one connects immediately with this new production of the duet Formication, left less than six months after splendid Icons for has New Religion. It is also the occasion for us to see whether the duet of Nottingham confirms its first test. With his 5 titles for large a half hour, one will rather regard Agnosia as a mini album with in point of organ a title of almost 13 minutes, pointing out the opening of Icons for has New Religion. To tell the truth, one is déboussolé a little with the listening of disc. If environments remain same quality, dark, worrying, the form is somewhat different, to start with the sound density, the experiments, and of the melodies less present, less effective. The first title rests for example on a rhythmic loop which seems made up of concrete between-shocks on which some cavernous breaths are posed. When the sound is clearer, it is as well purified more with floating and rhythmic tablecloths of cans. Hesitating, chaotic. The third track is only made up of a melody of guitar, felted, hardly treated, coming very close to lullaby melancholic person. The things are done a little more interesting thereafter. The sound remains clear, but the various elements are scattered and seem to be answered: resonant minimal melody with far, infra-low humming, whistles grésillants, time then seems suspended, and more still on the last track, of composition perhaps more traditional: buckle metal cords and tablecloths in flow and backward flow, a texture of power saw sometimes, an analogical loop of keyboard very 70s, a murmured robot-like voice way Darth Vader, some effects of syncope on the end as if the machines were enraillaient before a return to a state of calm. Certainly more difficult of access than Icons for has New Religion, Agnosia is more abstract but also more frankly ambient, of the same tonality when the album alternated environments. Agnosia remains a completely honest album, and in particular less marked by the influences previously quoted (Coil and:Zoviet*France: at the head). It should be noted that this production is a collaboration between Harmful (structure managed by Formication) and Dark Winter (netlabel American dedicated to the musics dark-ambient), and is thus available to the traditional format CD (limited to 500 specimens) and in free remote loading on the netlabel. (Babelfish Translation)

Tokafi - Tobias Fischer (c) 2008
A consciously unconscious approach: Tribal percussion takes on lead functionality and melody turns to rhythm.

It is with mixed emotions that we present this album as part of our first “Dark Ambient Special”. Not because of the quality of the music at hand here. Quite on the contrary, it deserves to be heard by anyone with an internet connection decent enough to allow him to download this work from the pages of the Dark Winter website for free or with enough spare cash to support the band by ordering it at the decidedly friendly price of $7.99.

What instead turns this into a difficult case is that it seems anything but fair to put any kind of stamp on this UK-based duo, which has by now developped a style both demanding and appropachable and which is made up of as many dark passages as it is of amicably experimental ones. For Formication, it has almost always been like this. “Pieces for a comdemned Piano” called for comparisons with John Cage, while “Redux” explored the possibilities of reworking tracks in a live environment, using certain parameters as starting points and taking them to wherever the moment seemed to dictate.

Quite a lot of the music on “Agnosia” seems to be based on a similar approach. What is most striking about this concise effort is its combination of tracks, which connect through ideas and shared context, rather than mood or texture. The details of these ideas remain undisclosed, however, and left to the listener to interpret. Consequently, objects which would otherwhise never meet are placed side-by-side, pieces develop according to rules outside of our immediate recognition, development can equal decomposition, tribal percussion takes on lead functionality and melody turns to rhythm.

In the three short pieces, which open “Agnosia”, this approach is most obvious. The otherworldy character of the music is offset by its scenic compactness, its morbid undertones softened by the whimsically stuttering, sympathetically broken grooves, which seem to walk through shardes of broken glass while holding a candle to disperse the growing darkness. As the album progresses, however, the claustrophobia intensifies, even as the dreamlike poetry of some moments increases.

It takes until the fourth track, in which gargantuan bass drones pressurise whatever’s left of the air around you, trampled triphop loops try climbing from their traumatised graves, shimmering synthesizer pads colour the sky in phantasmagoric timbres and an electronic bass guitar places black spots on a bleak canvas, that the album draws its audience in completely. After this horrific tour de force, the twelve minutes of the closing Berlin School of Electronic hommage soar off into the eternity of the cosmos on wings of muffled sequencer patterns and warm string sighs.

Formication are not allowing genre-definitions to interfere with this consciously unconscious approach. “Agnosia” remains sealed off from the putside world through highly personal filters. “Why the fuck aren't they headlining the festivals all over the planet?” much-respected Retinascan label founder Burkhard Kelin once asked with reference to Formication, but the answer is just as obvious: Because their music still seems to have been composed on a different planet and within the hermetic atmosphere of their livingroom at midnight. It is this complete disregard of formulistic demands, which makes them hard to categorise – but a true treasure for any Dark Ambient fan with a desire to try out something different for a change.

Wonderful Wooden Reasons - (c) 2008
My previous exposure to the work of the Formication duo of Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft has led to mixed feelings - one album I liked very much and one just wasn't my particular cup of tea. The quality of their work however is undeniable and always shows a scope and maturity of song-writing that is to be admired. So, Agnosia has a heavy burden to carry. Can it swing my opinion one way or the other? And the answer? Yes, it most certainly can, and, I'm extremely happy to report. it's a very fine album. Gone is the 'ritualistic' nature that, for me at least, marred their previous album (Icons of a New Religion) and in it's place is an openness of scope that allows Agnosia the room to breathe and expand to fill every corner of the room.

The driving force behind Agnosia is the sublime use of contrasting yet complimentary rhythms that propel the music along it's chosen path. Often these rhythms are hidden within the melody itself and only really become apparent once Formication let you realise they are there. Further to this is the bewildering array of crisp, coruscating noise tones with which Bowman and Ravenscroft enhance their compositions. Utilising a battery of sounds that rub and grind pulling the listener along in their unsettling and turbulent wake.

Agnosia is a beautifully mature album beholden to no one genre or influence and as such it is heartily recommended.

Heathen Harvest.com - ZG (c) 2008
Two guys from the UK - Kingsley John Buckland Ravenscroft and Alec D Bowman - come up again with a new masterpiece Agnosia, Formication’s seventh act. And again even by the outlook this album has something to tell about itself. This time their album is not only issued on CD limited to 500 copies, but is available as a net free release via Dark Winter, a label focused on dark ambient, atmospheric sound from all around the world.

Agnosia is a disease, a loss of ability to recognize objects, persons, sounds, shapes, or smells while the specific sense is not defective nor is there any significant memory loss. And maybe the cover that is usually a part and parcel of the concept within each of Formication’s CD this time also a reflection of the main idea. The object on the picture in the middle of the cover is quite difficult to determine. Sure, you can say that it is a shape of the man that is looking down. But some pay perceive it just as a spot..or a number of spots. You see, it is like a test at a psychiatrist’s – your perception depends on how much your mind is out of order..or how luxuriant one’s imagination is. So, as Agnosia come together with some difficulties in recognising the shapes and objects, the choice of the front cover is very appropriate in my opinion. This conception continues on the album, when you cannot be sure what is written on the CD, what you’re hearing and what is the origination of this or that sound, you cannot be sure about the track you’re listening to, because the exact names of the track are known only by the band members or even they might not know which track has which title of those mentioned on the back of the envelope. Yes, small cute envelope in black and white just to hold a CD and nothing else. Well, the artwork of the envelope and CD say it pretty all.

The CD contains only five track, but it is not quantity that counts, isn’t it? It is once again a fine piece of ritualistic ambient that makes you address yourself to the mysterious ancient times and then come back to contemporary world. Or is it a journey to the dreams or better to say nightmares? Pictures of day and night changing each other fast, grey and black clouds running accross the sky, sun rising and setting as if centuries are passing by while you’re just standing and watching. Or it may be you, changing seasons and making the sun set as an ancient shaman, insightful and powerful. These are the first two tracks – a calm atmospheric layer sometimes accompanied with remote haunting sound with rhythmic ornaments built of anxious sounds that remind ritualistic, sometimes shifting shaman drumming. If those two first tracks can be somehow called dark and anxious, then the third track is full of tranquility, which is created with teh help of transparent crystal sounds travelling from ear to ear and eventually slowly moving away so that the beginning of a new track comes as a slight shock. It is not a return to the first two tracks. It is viscous, unclear, very thick. As if you didn’t have any place to move and had to move together with something that moves near, as if the waves of something unknown and unseen moved you, some power you cannot resist. Guitar sound appear as an image of light in the end of a tunnel, a picture of something bright, embodiment of hope, which suddenly disappears to appear again after some time, when viscous, thick sound comes back. This time it is deeper and more atmospheric, this bass makes you feel the space and then fades away to give the way to the last track – Agnosia (the title is not stated on the cover, however), which gives rise to diverse feeling – on one hand it is very calm and even full of light and transparency, but on the other hand it has these sounds in background that doesn’t allow you to relax and calm down, they make you stay attentive and wait for something to happen. Well, something’s indeed happened: this band again pleased my ears and my imagination with their highly atmospheric and professional sound design. Will be waiting for the next album, just as ever!

Gridface.com - D.H. (c) 2008
I had the misfortune of choosing to first listen to this mini-album by the UK duo known as Formication at about one o'clock in the morning, with powerful winds of 70km/h whirling at my window in the blackness. The ambience was creepy enough without the music, and when the first sounds of Agnosia began to fade in I feared it would be too much, but I listened, paralyzed.

Shifting, crunchy signals and a looping whistle-like sound immediately make it known that this will be a claustrophobic ambient album of the creepiest quality, something Coil and Elph would be proud of. Howling electronic winds are blowing a rusty gate while inaudible voices try to tempt me in strange tongues.

Just before I feel the need to end the madness, the next track floats in on airy pads and clattering found sounds. I feel calmer now, but still uneasy as the clattering seemingly picks up a rhythm but almost immediately drops it in favor of a new one.

Just as my mind starts to wonder in a paranoid manner what could be next, a soothing bell-like synth loops gorgeously. The tones sound safe and I can relax. Or can I?

A blast of dissonance, sub-bass and what sounds like schizophrenic crickets surround me. A submerged minor-key melody starts to play through all the chaos, but abruptly stops in favor of static. The melody reenters with only the crickets to compete with and a few random bursts of bass.

Maybe the nightmare is over, I think to myself as delayed melodies start to float above me. These sounds are friendly; they will guide me to light. Just then I start getting queasy; the sounds have turned on me, they are closing in on me, the voices are back, they've found me. They are getting closer, but I can't move, they are whispering in my ear. The environment starts to fade away, revealing my room. Was it all just a dream, a nightmare, or maybe both? 4 Stars

Side-line.com - Paul Lloyd (c) 2008
Masters of dark ritual ambient Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft from Nottingham in the UK present “Agnosia”, a 32 minute album available for free download from net label Dark Winter (www.darkwinter.com) or as a limited edition of 500 CDs.

The album, which takes its name from a condition that causes an inability to identify people or things, consists of just five tracks of typically disturbing content. “Night-time in the Forest of Sticks” and “The Skeleton in Your Head” are harrowing dark ritual nightmares hinting at unseen foreboding in the dark woods. “A Sad Story of Not Having” however is surprisingly minimal, serene and gentle, perhaps lulling us into a false sense of security before the haunting spectral voices, deep rumbling tones, fuzzy distortion and ominous scrapes introduce new demons to troubled minds. Cunningly mixing some of the sinister qualities of the opening brace of tracks with the minimal ambience of the third, the duo illustrate their ability to take their already dark electronic music to nightmarish levels. At just under 13 minutes, album closer “Agnosia” continues the journey deeper into the darkness, adding a distorted spectral voice for even more supernatural effect. A very dark album but wonderfully executed and absorbing – just don’t listen to it on your own…or in the dark!

Foxy Digitalis - Mike Wood (c) 2008
Formication make dark ambient with emphasis on dark. By adding metallic drone and an industrial menace to these five pieces, they have created an ominous and rich EP with more bite than many a similar release.

The highlights for me are the third and fourth tracks. The third track is a somber, rhythmic piece, one that looks within its drone for that rhythm and finds it. The fourth, is an otherworldy,
echoing, gothic piece, with occasional bursts of static, disturbing bass-heavy howls, and unearthly minor chords, the sound of quiet, probably fetid water dripping.

Most ambient records these days seem to like to end with a long track, and the fifth tune here is a Kraftwerk-esque dream piece running over 12 minutes. Slowly the buildup to an industrial pulse provides a fitting uncoiling of many of the EP's motifs. This duo knows its electronica history as well as having a bag full of their own ideas. That combination makes for a formidable and creepy entry into the soundscape wars. 7/10

Textura.org - Ron Schepper (c) 2007
Agnosia (definition: “inability to recognize objects by use of the senses”) presents the five latest macabre mini-soundtracks from the black forest by Nottingham-based alchemists Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft aka Formication. At thirty-two minutes, the plunge into dark ambient is shorter this time around yet the material is as ritualistic and mind-melting as anything the duo's unleashed before.

The EP's disturbing mood is immediately established when monstrous groans in “Symptoms of a Nervous Disorder” suggest a dying soul being dragged towards a forest burial pit filled with scurrying insects scurrying and distant wails (“A Sad Story of Not Having”). After a brief interlude of uncharacteristic calm (the peaceful “The Skeleton in Your Head”), the plunge into the dark underbelly continues (“Night-Time in the Forest of Sticks ”) where shadowy behemoths and swarms of chattering insects are encountered. The title piece finally arrives to lift the veil of blackness and instill some modest degree of hope to arise for at least one more day. However, the restrained dub-like intro gives way to disease that spreads throughout the decaying body, prompting hallucinations of croaking voices, sour tones, and burbling electronic patterns. Formication's music offers the crowning aural complement to to an evening spent ingesting peyote and absinthe while reading Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft.

Petcord.com - Olliver (c) 2007
Darkness. Cold machinery. Walking down a steamy hall, indifferently, precise and predictable mechanic rhythms creating new values. All of that and more could be the introduction to Formication’s Agnosia, released on the Dark Winter netlabel, notorious for its rather gloomy music selection. Formication’s line of music is remotely derived from IDM, in that there are fixed rhythms and repetitive analogue synth sequences that go through some serious filter manipulation. But there are also references to what is commonly identified as industrial and dark ambient: hovering synth tones, the obligatory vault sound and an artwork strongly reminiscent of the Goth scene’s black celebration standards. Add to it some zombified phone-line voices, nervously stuttering sequences and you are nearly there.

Perhaps the sound is not that groundbreaking if you look at it from the angle of innovation, but then again this is a rather moot point as this shortcoming is overcompensated with intelligent arrangements and well adRtens up with a faint synth motif, although it is too distant and soft to be a real comfort and is too quickly pushed aside by a subsonic wavering bassline that tosses up metallic splinters in a steamy vault filled with the slurping sound of digesting aliens. At times a melancholic minor sequence echoes a final desperate thought, reflections slowly dripping from the walls like tears shed in vain.

The bizarre scenery culminates in the final track that courageously expands to an impressive range of almost 13 minutes and succeeds where many other artists fail miserably. It picks up the lighter intermission theme from track three, this time pushed into the virtual foreground and slowly drowning in dubmatic echoes, soon to be interfered by noisy feedback hysterically screaming in a shattered state of anxiety. Slowly a analogue synth bassline is fading in and terribly mutilated overflanged zombie voices announcing their final state of insanity. No doubt, these are great moments of dramaturgy and well supported by a decent production quality. To me this is one of the top releases of the year and probably one of the best ever heard from Dark Winter, thus I strongly recommend my readers to download this release, pick up some high quality earphones and enjoy the mind movie.

MusiqeMachine.com - Roger Batty (c) 2007
This new ep from dark electrionca duo Formication really shows them making thier sound denser, deepen and more unnerving. It also finds them removing a lot of the cliched & straight forward beat patterns that littered their last full length & replace them with more complex and deviant ones.

Though you can still hear hints of others work it seems to be getting less and less with their own dark and hallucinogenic electronic identity coming to the fore. The tracks often feel like look into darkly deranged and macabre magic eye pictures, the closer you listener the more unnerving and down right creep elements appear to ones ear. I guess if you were to make comparison you'd could say Coil around black light district album, or the sinister audio texturing of Boards of Canada's Geogaddi, but there�s enough dark and malignant musically personality here to let it stand sinister in the Connor on it's own

A consistent and effective excise in dark and dense beat making that really slows this project is starting to swim more and more in their own dark waters.

Rating: 4 out of 5

SonicCuriosity.com - Matt Howarth (c) 2007
This release from 2007 offers 32 minutes of industrial ilbience.

Abrasive electronics are harnessed to generate five tracks straight out of the pitch black twilight of a nuclear winter.

Abstract cybernetic rhythms assail the senses in the first track, while shrill pitches wail and eerie sounds lurch about in the hazy distance.

The second piece is brief and allows contentious beats to duel for domination. Some tonalities try to act as referee between these tempos but they are utterly outweighed by the conflict.

The next piece utilizes bell-like keyboards to achieve a choppy melody that ends up chasing its own tail in a dreamy loop. Ultimately, this cyclic riff sinks into a pool of minimal chitterings.

The music reverts to pure ilbience with the next piece, as glitchy sounds swarm amid sparkling bleeps and machines issuing bestial growlings. In the distance, a harmony strives to be heard, but is repeatedly beaten down by the harsher burblings of monsters best not viewed too closely.

The final track clocks in at 12 minutes and offers the most structured arrangement. Elements from previous tracks (shrill pitches, glitchy beats, wavery tones) conspire to produce an almost melodic sequence that delivers the listener from apocalypse through a dreamy realm of perilous substance. Passage from the darkness is littered with spooky mutterings and celestial tonalities. Deliverance is actually quite dubious, for the tune's taint could remain buried deep in the audience's battered psyche.

These compositions are stridently sparse, yet dense with haunting elements scurrying about an environment punctuated by gritty e-perc. The mood is dark and hostile, even when the tunes adopt restraint in their assault. A decidedly artsy compression of ilbience and ambience.

Vital Weekly - Frans de Waard (c) 2007
Following a string of releases on CDR and MP3, Formication made their move into 'real' CDs with 'Icons For A New Religion' (see Vital Weekly 579), and now return with 'Agnosia' for Harmful Records, which is their own label. Still a duo of Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft, and still taking their influences from the last forty years of alternative music (from Conrad Schnitzler to Pete Namlook, from Throbbing Gristle to Porter Ricks). Highly atmospheric music, playing the mood card rather than the well structured composed card. Playing around with musical instruments, mainly samplers and synthesizers me thinks, this moves away from the previous release, which was a bit too 'magickal' and 'ritualistik' for my taste. This new one seems to be more open, has more air in it. Especially the final track (couldn't figure out the track titles) build around a pulsating rhythm is quite nice, highly psychedelic, but also having their marks inside ambient through dreamy synthesizers and a slightly distorted voice. A bit like Zoviet*France, this entire release, except that this is a bit short, clocking at some thirty-two minutes. Nice move this one.

Brainwashed.com - Anthony Locke (c) 2007
Formication are the Nottingham based duo of Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft who have recorded for Lumberton Trading Company (Thighpaulsandra, Experimental Audio Research). My previous experience of their music tells me the ideal way to submerge myself in their latest mini-album is through headphones, by candle light with an ice cold Guinness in hand.

The album's intro begins with some sinister electronic percussion while dark atmospheric synths create an unsettling feeling. Distant voices that sound like they're speaking in tongues suggest a nightmarish paranoia. The second track has a wailing sound that resonates through the off kilter percussion while layers of crackles permeate the sound of broken machines, like the technology is dying, taking its final breath as it malfunctions. The third track has a warm, lush beauty: minimal melodic keys and chimes sound familiar and comforting, like coming out of a bad trip with a sense of hope. It is simple in its execution yet astounding in its beauty. It is indeed "deep listening" as lots of subtle intricate pulses in the background can be tuned in to, and it is no longer the nightmare suggested by the album's opener.

As the comfort of reality sets in following the end of the nightmare, a restful sleep follows, but the relief is temporary. The sound of artificial crackles and fizzes are disorientating upon re-entry into that dark place, the most distant recesses of the subconscious. Meanwhile, the insect wings fluttering at hundreds of miles an hour puncture the brooding sub bass that weaves in and out of bubbling liquids, deeply rich textures, bleak soundscapes and synthetic audio sculptures. All the while a sense of melancholy permeates. It's a new world but it seems familiar. A million shades of black can be seen and each one is more intriguing than the last.

Agnosia closes with a cinematic, haunting piece that evolves into a hybrid techno track with eerie vocals and a futuristic vibe full of lurking tension and passionate intensity. It eventually becomes totally claustraphobic but as soon as it all becomes too much and I need to turn the lights on I'm relieved with white light as the album fades away like the ghost of a distant memory.

Agnosia is a set of tracks that are interesting on every level from their glacial surface through to each subtle detail in the production. At a running time of just over 32 minutes it doesn't overstay its welcome and therefore is ideal for some late night solo escapism during the impending winter.

Although the music is electronic in its construction it retains an organic, human feel throughout. Here are a duo who have truly mastered the art of black electronics: imagine Darth Vader and Aleister Crowley on powerbooks after completing a PhD in sound design. It is genuinely original sounding material that fans of Coil, Rapoon, Deathprod, and recent Dopplereffekt should investigate.

Back To Reviews

Creative Commons License
Dark Winter releases are free to download under a Creative Commons License.


Related Links: