For "ambient" music this music has a surprisingly dynamic feel to it. This album is by some degree more than just ambient music, because as one listens to this album, it does not subvert its presence to the background; one can actively listen to this music and be enthralled.
Favorite track: We Miss Octavia Butler.
"Despairer", Marc Kate's latest release from the ambient Failing Forms label, speaks for itself — the melancholy of the world collapsing, the resonant sadness of personal heartbreak, while sweeping in vision, this is an exceedingly intimate album.
The funny thing about loss is that it creates just as it destroys. This is music of the threshold, that place where old orders fall and new ones emerge — failing forms, yes, but forms nonetheless. There is a pervasive uncertainty here, a questioning, a seeking of direction after the deluge. This is what it sounds like when meaning has blown up — an aesthetics of disappearance.
"Despairer" is, in many ways, a response to the tech culture assault on San Francisco (and the world). Kate takes up the tools of the trade — this is a purely synthetic record — and slyly counter-attacks, imbuing humanity precisely where humanity is being evacuated. "Despairer" is a counterpoint to tech's speed and greed — slow, immersive, materialist, drifting. (It is obviously not the emergent tech joy of, say, Holly Herndon. Think: My Bloody Valentine stripped of melody and instruments, nothing but the texture of lament.)
And yet "Despairer" is not without wit and joy. Note the song titles — “Sister Hyde,” "Abject-Oriented Ontology," "We Miss Octavia Butler." This is an album of despair, no doubt, but it also opens the way to resistance and new possibilities of life, of sound, of music in this age of decay.
We could call this record what Maya Kalev and Chris SSG termed "Power Ambient" in that it "demands you pay attention to its constant shifts in mood and intensity." But "power" is such a loaded term, both formally and culturally, that Kate prefers Ambient Materialism. "Despairer" is an album to be lived through; it is to become Despairer.
"Kate’s music is a little too frayed-at-the-edges, a little too worn, a little too emotional and ragged to be polite muzak for the Virtual Plaza."
"I see Marc Kate's lastest album, Despairer, as the most vehement political act I've witnessed this whole election season. Why? Because it demands a different rhythm, speed, and affect than the everyday speeding gloss of technocratic capitalism. His album literally changes the very terms of the conversation. He doesn't rail against as being against is the same as being for (prepositions are everything!). He insinuates himself into the cracks of the beast and expands, breaking the very structures of thinking, of reaction, slowing down our lives, immersing us in an affect we choose not to experience — the despair that permeates. This album absolutely refuses the terms of the consumerist spectacle (elections included)."
- An Emphatic Umph - Daniel Coffeen
The beauty of arrhythmic music like Despairer is that it works as a kind of Rorschach test, allowing the listener to discover a cinematic world within it. It's a fine, powerful work, and an emotional (and emotive) listen.
- SF Weekly
“Filling the room with manifests of regret, remorse and lament acts like a soul scrub. After the glittering crush of Kate’s tones washes over, exiting the other side feels like a new day.”
- Raven Sings the Blues
“Despair may be the theme of Kate’s debut collection of abstract audio alchemy, yet a warm, ethereal glow suffuses Despairer’s soft-swirl shimmer and hushed, haunting drift. Moments of minimal mesmer and tendrils of ghostly, theremin-like melody are set against luminous conflagrations of gristled static and blurry ambience, reminiscent of fellow electro-dronelords Tim Hecker and Christian Fennesz.”
- Pandora - Pick of the Week
“Los sonidos combinan con drones y ruido formando paisajes sonoros oscuros y también conviven las bellas atmósferas de las que emergen sutiles melodías.
En un comienzo el disco tiene un carácter minimalista; una pocas capas de sonido sintéticos que planean sobre el ambiente donde aún no se configuraban las líneas melódicas. Luego en “Sister Hyde” irrumpe una muralla de ruido en un entorno armonioso, así también ocurre con el magnífico “Abject-Oriented Ontology” y sus bellas capas ambientales.”
released March 15, 2016
Written, performed and produced by Marc Kate.
Mastered by Lawrence English at 158
Photo by 0dN.
I think what Island of the Gods and Black Merlin do is so important for art. They do not fray away from cultural context and reverence and really do seek to present the essence of a culture as authentically as possible. There are not concessions made or attempts to homogenize what is already a vitality. Culture, language, semiotics, community: these things are beautiful and should they appear as inferior or hideous, one must take pause and ask, “why does there exist such an overwhelming precipice between my aesthetics and this other’s? What is behind this dislocation and how can worlds be viewed?” Camryn Marquez