Review by Simon Marshall-Jones/Brainwashed.com link
Looking at it objectively this collaboration between the veteran American 'industrial-tribal' percussionist Z'EV and the German ritual dark ambient duo of Frank Merten and Henry Emich, aka Herbst9, seems a perfect recipe for a successful collaboration. The idea of H9's deeply harmonic and ritual dronescapes supported by Z'EV's richly rhythmic and complex percussion is something of a mouth-watering prospect for me.
Indeed I am happy to report that the result more than lives up to the promise: the percussive authority of Z'EV's rhythms are an excellent structural counterpoint to Herbst9's beautifully dense and deeply subterranean freeform synthesiser drones, whistles, scratchings and scrapings. H9's music is the darkness from the deep and hidden places of the world made substantial, the inhalations and exhalations of the very earth beneath our feet, and the steam and bile of nature's eruptions; Z'EV's contributions are the audible pulse and heartbeat, a measure of the inner moods and caprices of our planet. It is a benighted alien world down there, far from the light and warmth of the sun and rarely glimpsed by humans; coldly cavernous spaces inhabited by troglodytic chirpings, scrapings, creakings, skitterings, and demonic mumblings, hugely amplified both by the cathedral acoustics and the imagination. It is also the seismic upheavals and the unseen rockfalls, the slippages of faultlines and the forceful opening up of fissures. Add in to the mix a certain sense of endarkened and heated closeness, along with an oppressively hellish weight, both in terms of the sheer heavy physicality and the layers of aeons that have piled themselves on top of each other ever since time began—the latter being especially reinforced by the earthiness of Z'EV's percussive backdrop, propelling one backwards to a more 'primitive' era, perhaps when the world was younger and less seismically stable.
It is certainly very darkly evocative and unearthly, bringing to mind all the above and more; there is plenty here to spark the imagination. The music is a constantly shifting tableaux of deep dank caverns, dripping water, disembodied eyes staring out from the Stygian gloom, legions of shuffling creatures in untold numbers and the glow of ever-burning fires suffusing the smoke-filled subterranean environs—plus it is everything I imagined a Bosch painting brought to life would be like: a spine-shivering nightmarish blend of the real, horrific, and phantasmagorical.
Moreover, one of the more pleasing aspects about this is the seamlessness with which the two sets of artists have integrated their contributions into the other's. People could be forgiven for thinking that they all worked together in the same studio rather than the thousands of miles apart they actually were. It is pleasing to hear an album where no single element is allowed to either overpower or undermine any other; the music develops along natural, organic, and cooperative lines, resulting in a completely holistic musical entity, in a reflection perhaps of the bleak subterranean world it describes. The music is both lean and spare and possessed of a sense that it contains nothing extraneous or superfluous—just like craftsmen the artists have carefully sculpted their material, retaining only the most essential elements and rejecting everything else.
For my part though, the ultimate test is whether any particular album can bear repeated hearings without it becoming palling and tiresome—I must have heard this album about four or five times during the course of writing this review and I have to admit that it worked its rhythmic ambient magic every time and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so.