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The Embrace Between the Circus and the Sky by Silk Demon (Review)

This collection of dreamlike yet unsettling ambient music is one of Dream Catalogue’s best releases in recent memory.
The Embrace Between the Circus and the Sky​​ - Silk Demon

In their drive to promote and catalog (npi) underground electronic music, Dream Catalogue’s discography has been a bit uneven. This impression feels doubly so in light of the label — which initially rose to fame for popularizing the “vaporwave” genre — changing ownership last year. Ever since then, the label’s been in hyperdrive, releasing a slew of music ranging from grim, frenetic jungle (wosX, DJ Ray-Xans) to noisy, lo-fi rock (Werewolf Hair) to abstract beat collages (Metagyndes).

But even though Dream Catalogue’s output can lean towards the latter in the quality/quantity spectrum, the London-based label remains one of the more interesting and compelling electronic labels out there — and Silk Demon’s The Embrace Between the Circus and the Sky is a good example of why.

Hearkening back to some of Dream Catalogue’s most classic and acclaimed titles — e.g., 2814’s Rain Temple, HKE’s HK, telepath’s Virtual Dream Plaza — the mysterious producer’s Dream Catalogue debut is full of spectral, dreamlike ambient textures. Textures whose apparent sole purpose is to run your perception of reality through the sonic equivalent of Photoshop’s gaussian blur filter.

Album opener “Levitate Away From Here” is more than aptly titled; listening to it makes you feel like you’re soaring over Blade Runner’s cityscape just as the sunrise breaks through the smog for the first time in ages. Somber glass-like tones shimmer and resonate throughout “Sad Fortune“ s nine minutes like you’re walking through an alien cathedral while “Moon Blossom” strikes a balance between contemplative and vaguely unsettling.

Delicate arpeggios and tones pulse and cluster on “We Lied,” but even as you strain to hear them — by the way, this album practically demands to be listened to on headphones — reverberating beats constantly threaten to overwhelm the song from somewhere in the background. The album ends with “Kiss the Earth,” which evokes Makeup & Vanity Set’s cyberpunk-influenced sound (albeit in a more ephemeral form) as soft synth pads count down to the song’s ambiguous final moments.

My earlier phrase — “a balance between contemplative and vaguely unsettling” — applies to much of The Embrace Between the Circus and the Sky. Yes, the music on this album is certainly dreamlike (again, npi) in the finest Dream Catalogue fashion, but I make no guarantee as to what kind of dreams you’ll have as a result of listening to it. But chances are, they’ll be quite unlike most dreams you have.

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