Monday, July 02, 2012

Song of the Day 31: 'Icidina - Royal Highshiva of the Glacierplains'

We go from one of the harshest sounding tracks of Espers to one of the slickest. Icidina comes across as being one of the stronger tracks of Espers with a solid groove working among an as-always well developed atmosphere.

Icidina begins with a very awesome sounding sweepdown effect that sort of glides/flies in. Notes solidify and set the stage for what sounds like one of the coolest tracks on Espers. At 0:06 we get our first taste of the percussion. Icidina has some of the less exotic percussion sounds seen in Espers; instead, it features a little more conventional styles and sounds in the form of what I'd call something of a rim hit (with a bit of a low end to it) and then a hi-hat (I'm way out of my league as far as naming samples and synths go so please bear with me). Anyway, 0:06 marks the first rim hit followed by three hi-hats for the quarter notes. One of the other aspects I think I can really appreciate about Icidina is solid construction. Meteo Xavier doesn't try to attack us with everything at once, rather very carefully manipulating elements to make basic stuff sound complex. The simple 4 beat percussion cycles in about 3 seconds. The atmosphere in this track is very solid and not as "washy" as any of the previous tracks. It hovers fairly certainly around a few notes and is a great backdrop for the percussion which repeats twice after 0:06 before the next element is introduced. At 0:13 the harmony appears and it is by far one of the sickest I've heard in a long time. Once again I'm at loss as to what to call it so we'll just go with "wavy synth". The wavy synth glides through all its note changes and flows very smoothly in the certainty and business-like manner of Icidina. At 0:20-0:25 some more atmosphere emerges via sound effects (this time it sounds like birds). At 0:26 a bass enters and goes through a single note sequence rhythm that's clearly defined, yet not too abrupt. The entering bass is joined by additions to the percussion section in the form of a bass drum on 1 and 3 and a hi-hat snare thing going on 2 and 4. Either this replaces the previous percussion or is stacked on top of it (I'm inclined to believe the former). This basic beat will continue for quite a while and contributes to the very methodical sound of the track as opposed to the others on Espers. At 0:40 a new significant element is added in the form of a low flute. This plays a non repetitive drifting yet defined melody until 1:06 when it drops out in favor of a less drawn-out "ethnic bell" part that plays a repetitive harmony sequence. Also at 1:06, the percussion section gains a tambourine with some definite reverb to assist on beats 2 and 4. At 1:20 there's some very neat atmospheric synths that play unique supporting notes that mesh very well with the atmosphere. This continues until 1:33 when what appears to be an orchestra begins to make itself known. This starts with the drawn out strings and then the horns emerge at 1:40. The melody itself seems to continue in the non repetitive drifting yet defined style first seen with the low flute at 0:40. There's also something like a soft high sine synth that works within the orchestra (either that or a flute or something in the orchestra). At 1:56-1:58 there's a bit of a "wind swell" which is basically some low atmosphere injection. This appears again at 2:10-2:12 and leads us to 2:14 where the orchestra parts quickly fade out and a bass atmosphere injection quickly fades in but decays steadily until its single note is renewed at 2:20. At 2:23 things begin to get a little weirder (although the stacked elements that have been progressing since the beginning help the majority of the track to still fill familiar). A medium high sort of trilling sample enters and begins to mesh with the background. This raises the dramatic element a little bit and to assist, at 2:26 it's joined with a new higher harmonic reinforcement synth to back up the "ethnic bell" which originally entered at 1:06. The trilling sample steadily decays and modulates with the atmosphere, with the single note being out by 2:36. At 2:36-2:37 another trilling note appears and repeats the process, but this time the note is also triggered at 2:40 as well. At 2:41 we begin to hear the lower end accompaniment of the trill in the form of a choir type sound that simply drops out and down underneath us in a very creepy, cool, and slick fashion (this is especially noticeable from 2:46-2:50). The trill works with the choir type sound, slowly getting slightly lower before fading out in order to highlight the sick dropout of the choir. At 2:50 the choir type sound does something even more creepy by building back up the scale of notes, sliding as the trill spits out brief sounds at 2:50, 2:51, 2:53, etc. (basically on the beat). As the low choir type sound builds back, there's an airy atmospheric effect at 2:54 that sort of swallows the sound of the build back. The airy atmospheric effect lingers in the form of subsequent atmospheric effects (i.e. at 2:57 there's a lower end effect that is basically the "wind swell" previously heard at 1:56-1:58), but it also makes another appearance at 2:59. Prior to 3:06 there's a subtle build up as higher end sounds begin to buzz their way into the mix, readying us for the entrance of a new synth. At 3:06 a new saw string type synth makes a rhythm out of a single note, with the sequence ending in a higher note adding to the "groove" feel. A more mid range saw type synth also appears at 3:06 with just a single note bouncing around the atmospheric effects applied to the synth. Also at 3:06 it appears the melodic reinforcement that first entered at 2:26 is now gone in order to make room for the dominating sounds of the saw type synths. During the time since the choir type sound disappeared, the "wind swell" mid range effect has dramatically increased and it now makes its rounds like a frequent part of the track. At 3:30 another choir type trilling sound happens and then at 3:33 the mid range saw type synth that's been bouncing around is given a more distinctive note to mesh with the atmosphere and the high saw string rhythmic synth is now gone. The track continues like this with the choir type sound making some resurgences along the way that seem more integrated with the "wind swells" occurring in the atmosphere. At 3:56 we also see a fainter version of the trill spitting out brief sounds that was previously seen at 2:50 (this continues until 4:03). There's a brief fadeout of multiple elements leading to 4:00. The "wavy synth" that's been persisting since 0:13 is gone as is any harmonic support it once had. All that's left is the remnants of the mid range saw synth that was intensified at 3:33 (it will soon disappear, but it just takes longer due to all the delay and release effects), the basic percussion first heard at the beginning of the track, and the bass that entered at 0:26 (although now it has a bass drum driving its rhythm and I'm not quite sure when it entered; this bass drum also works very well in tandem with the simple beat established in the percussion at the beginning of the track). This rapid deconstruction from all the slick elements that've been working all this time leaves us with a very cool bassline and working with remarkably simple percussion. This is also interesting because the atmosphere that existed in the very beginning is gone and there's not much else to dwell on other than the awesome bassline and percussion. At 4:13 the low flute at 0:40 reappears and plays the same melody, although this time its much softer to account for fewer instruments. At 4:36 the low flute is gone but now the percussion from before is also gone and is replaced by a faint high hi-hat that plays on 2 and 4. This really lets us enjoy the bassline. There's a low "wind swell" at 4:43-4:45 but the bass persists on its own until the atmosphere is slowly faded in with a mid-high range "wind swell" beginning at 4:50. At 5:03 the original percussion is back (the cycle the track started with) as is the orchestral elements from 1:33. However, the original percussion is now joined by a bass drum on the 3rd beat. These elements play their original melodies now more prevalent without the extra sections from before. This sequence runs until 5:43 at which time a new distinctive harmony-like repetitive sequence enters. This sequence also works very well with the overall groove of the track and the "wind swells" that go with it. The sequence repeats at 5:50 at which time the "wavy synth" reenters, completing the slick groove that dominates the moods and feelings of Icidina. At 6:04 the tambourine once again becomes a part of the percussion for beats 2 and 4. At 6:13 the trill again starts spitting out notes per beat and doesn't cease until 6:26. At 6:30 we're left hanging on the first note of the sequence started at 5:43. At this time all elements disappear from the track, leaving only the atmospheric sweepdown that the track started with. At 6:37 the bird sound effects from the beginning of the track emerge among the atmosphere although they are softer and fade out this time as the atmosphere deconstructs. In the end (7:04) we're left with silence as the last note of the atmosphere that began the track has faded out.

Pros: Icidina is methodical and throws down some very simple, yet slick grooves. The atmospheric sweepdown that began the track is one of the coolest I've heard and the overall atmosphere was more of a airy synth then the washy and exotic sounds of the rest of the album. The percussion wasn't significantly exotic, but it was definitely unique. The methodical construction and deconstruction of elements also made for some cool moments, especially when all the elements were scaled back to just the bassline and basic percussion. It's hard to ignore how simplicity is a winning formula for Icidina.

Cons: It's also hard to ignore how simplicity prevents a track from being near perfect. Icidina is good, but it lacks the overall atmosphere of the other tracks on Espers as well as the complexity. The fading and meshing sounds of the orchestra were sort of a strange addition to the track as they really didn't jive with the rest of the 4/4 in some cases. Then again, I guess you have to start somewhere.

Overall: Icidina is quite possibly my favorite track on Espers because it follows (what is in my book) the winning formula of simplicity. Staying in strict 4/4 for most of the track, Icidina features basic percussion rhythms and melds that with a cool bassline. The simplicity of the track is also what helps it sound very business-like and slick as the melodies are very methodical series' of notes. That being said, I can agree with Meteo Xavier when he calls this track a bit "bare". I'm curious to hear what a redo of this track would sound like. Overall, Icidina is a great track to have as the 5th out of 8 as it shows Meteo Xavier is still capable of bringing fresh and different material to the table late into the album. Just as you thought you had the style of Espers pinned down, this happens. In the end, very solid track and very enjoyable to listen to.

Rating: 9.3

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