Published on Tuesday, 18 October 2016 15:30
Album title: Continue To Exist
Release date: 9 September 2016
Label: Shortwave Transmissions
02. The Dying Process
03. Falling Back
04. The Blind Are Certainly Worthy
05. Specific Tendency
07. Research On Insects
08. To Those Seen
09. There Are Many
Herbst9 should by now be a well known name among fans of dark ambient. Henry Emich's side project, Spine, will not fail to enamour fans of Herbst9. There are a plethora of similiarities between the two projects. It is hard to really describe the differences between the two projects, save the absence of Frank Merten, the other half of Herbst9. However, throughout this review, I will certainly attempt to point out some variations.
Continue To Exist delivers many of the hallmark sounds that brought Herbst9 to fame. The deep reverberations that take the mind to foreign realms. The exquisite use of field recordings to spice up the atmosphere. The slightly disturbing, yet almost peaceful spoken word sections. The celestial feminine vocals which float throughout the mix. All of these things lead the listener into another world, a place and time which is infinitely foreign, yet somehow familiar, to the modern being.
But, there are some differences to be noticed. There does seem to be a bit of an added focus on guitar work, which blends effortlessly into the dark ambient foundation. The vocals appear to focus on a more modern and personal subject matter. Especially after the Akkadian trilogy, which has directed so much of Henry's attention through Herbst9 over the last decade. So returning to this more personal world, maybe we are finally getting a glimpse inside the mind of Henry Emich. A taste of his thoughts, when not looking to old religions, long forgotten by time. Then there are tracks like "The Blind Are Certainly Worthy" which reminds me of something by Loki Foundation label-mate Bad Sector. With its heavy focus on radio transmissions and intricate rhythm sections which go far beyond the ritual elements of other tracks on the album, this Bad Sector vibe is brilliantly executed, and easily becomes one of my favorite tracks on Continue To Exist.
Tracks like "The Dying Process" which incorporate heavy use of modified electric guitar, bring out a sense of a deep understanding. The prominent vocal passage gives the listener something to hone in on and pick at over multiple listens. These vocals are just barely discernible over the dark and foreboding undercurrents of the album. This is a testament to the deep understanding and masterful manipulation of the genre by Henry. Yet, when moving on to tracks like "Falling Back" there is more a sense of beauty that peaks out of the void. Vocals that are even more heavily manipulated contrasting the pristine piano sections, this is all topped off with the toll of a ritual bell, maybe a singing bowl, bringing the listener into a deep meditation, a state of understanding and bliss.
While not sticking to any true ritual ambient structures, Continue To Exist definitely holds many of the key elements of the ritual ambient sub-genre. The religious connotations of the bells and drums cannot be ignored. But this album goes to a more personal place. With tracks titles like "The Dying Process", "Research On Insects", and "Falling Back" we can see that this is not meant to evoke any sort of ancient theology or history like so many of Henry's previous endeavors. Continue To Exist is meant as a companion to the every day person. Its for people who are just trying to exist, in a world that has gone mad.
All these various elements come together to form an album in Continue To Exist, which is utterly brilliant. From subject matter to technical execution, Continue To Exist hits its mark, delivering a highly personal experience. An experience which takes the listener on a deep journey within their own mind, fighting their own mental battles, and sorting through the mess that is life in this modern age. Continue To Exist will be an essential addition to the libraries of any fans of the Loki Foundation roster. Fans of Herbst9 will find every reason to love Spine. Fans of acts like Bad Sector, Inade, The Human Voice, Circular, and many other acts which touch on similar sound palettes will all be pleased and rewarded by Continue To Exist. Really anyone who likes a more active form of dark ambient, which isn't afraid to go far beyond the drones and field recordings will be delighted in the sounds of Spine. A brilliant and pleasantly surprising release from Henry Emrich. Hopefully we will not go another decade before hearing more from this project!
Written by: Michael