This is the first installment in Hushush Records' Threesome Series, which brings three projects together to collaborate in pairs over the course of three separate CDs. The trio of John N. Sellekaers (Xingu Hill, Snog), C-drik (Axiome), and Olivier Moreau (Imminent Starvation, Delta Files) compose Belgium's Ambre, who's stellar debut, Enclave, was recently released on Germany's Ant-Zen. Mark Spybey is well-known for his releases as Dead Voices On Air and Propeller, as well as his past work on Download (with cEvin Key). The two projects work together beautifully, with distinct sounds of each shining through, as well as something entirely new.
The Sfumato formula is fairly simple: Spybey provided source tapes, and Ambre spent two weeks in the studio coming up with the rest. Whether that meant remixing, rerecording, adding, subtracting, simply using the tapes as inspiration or coming up with a combination of all of this is unclear, but the result is nothing short of brilliant.
From the haunting frequencies of "J'irai cracher sur vos ombres" to the rich oriental stylings and direct instrumentation of "La loge dorée," where the sound of Spybey's musical toys are unmistakable, Sfumato covers a lot of ground. Tonal repetitions provide the primary rhythm of the release, often soft and low. There is no set formula, however, as the short "Le clown Baxir Kodek" cuts in to remind us; layers of samples and curt loops combine to form one of the more frenzied tracks on the disc.
The disc opens with "Citadelle intérieure," subtle, tenebrous ambience introducing the listener to the restrained, simple approach that defines a great deal of this collaboration. Deep resonances coast back and forth, the soft sound of trickling water adding to a cold first impression. The simple repetitions of "L'horloge de calcuta" slowly grow in intensity and volume over the track's nine-minute length, building up into a moving climax before gradually slipping away. The emotion tracks like this capture, whether warm and comforting or stark and gloomy, is what brings them to life.