Review: Ordeal – Ma|an

Eibon Records, 2002


1) An Xtraordinary Popular Delusion
2) Ma|an
3) 0 Number Needed To Treat
4) Graduale
5) One Haiku In Halfsleep
6) Waiting: One Empty Dish And A Dead Clock
7) Just The Same Logic Aside
8) Season 2
9) Amazon Phalanx 2.0

There are so many projects in this scene we havent heard of. Which is usually good, as the scene is so small that quality is bound to come up to the surface by itself, which in turn makes it easier for us to sift through all those releases. However, sometimes, the reasons for this are not as simple. There are bands that are far more deserving of attention, especially some of the projects that are now sadly defunct, and even more especially those that died out before the internet era. An excellent example of this would be Ordeal.

Ma|an is Ordeals sophomore album, radically different than their first offering, which was infused with gothic elements and an overall much more direct approach. While high-quality in itself, it failed to garner particular praise. This album turned to much calmer waters, while keeping that post-rock aspect that seems to have constituted the core of the musical genius of this project. Post-rock and dark ambient may not sound as a particularly appealing combination, as they create a fusion that can go horribly wrong, sound out of place, badly produced, poorly executed etc. Its very difficult to balance all the features out so that the final product sounds like a proper creation, and not some unnatural monster. And it works like a charm on this album.

As Ive already stated, the main potential problem in this type of experimentation is balance, as elements from one genre will constantly try to bleed into the other one and impose themselves – no musician is immune to this. Yet Ordeal uses this volatile principle to its advantage – its the very opposition of the two genres that creates the unmistakably unique atmosphere we have here. In order to prevent the friction between two, Ordeal consciously starts off with a bang, and controls this bleeding throughout the process, so that each side is constantly reflecting the other, with the dark ambient elements slowly gaining the upper hand over the post-rock/experimental ones with time. Five minutes into the album, and you wont be able to discern anything anymore; you can only relax and enjoy what the album is providing you with, which is harsh noises downtuned to incredible subtlety and dark ambient drones completely concealed from the listeners immediate awareness.

However, this alone isnt enough to keep your attention for the entirety of a full-length album. This is why Ordeal uses careful structuring – the tracklisting is by no means casual and random (even though the track titles may seem that way). As Ive said, as the album progresses, it becomes – well, not really calmer, but deeper. The tracks and ambience change abruptly all the time (a huge risk on the part of the artist), but the listening experience manages to remain unhindered. Each time the track changes, you feel as if youve managed to peel off another layer of reality, coming closer to the core of things. Insolently enough, just when youre about to reach it, the last track fires you back all the way to the surface, which really makes a comparison with Jules VerneJourney to the Centre of the Earth unavoidable – youre glad to be back home safely, but youre left wanting to a certain extent, just so that you always wonder.

Two things are certain – one, this album sounds unique enough for you to be unable to really have any expectations of what youre about to hear, and two, it wont be everyones cup of tea. Despite the incredible cohesion achieved between such diverse elements as the ones present on this album, the sound simply remains too peculiar to be widely enjoyed. If you dont manage to, fair enough. If you do… Well, you’ll be richer by an entire experience, that’s for sure.