Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Oblivion Guest - The Light in the Black Hole

Hunter Barr, who will be known to our readers as a former member of KnifeLadder, alongside Andrew Trail and the late John Murphy. Following the passing of (the much-missed) John Murphy, the remaining duo continue as Black Light Ascension and Antivalium. He also performs with Naevus and This Is Radio Silence, as well as running the Retina II Studios operation. Oblivion Guest is his solo project, and The Light in the Black Hole is a dense evolving soundtrack of electronics, synths, and bass composed as a soundtrack to a performance with the Brazilian born, Germany based dancer Una Shamaa.

Without doubt, The Light in the Black Hole is an impressive electronic score. It's rhythmic but KnifeLadder listeners should realise these beats are electronic, distorted, scattered, sometimes clinical and often dance oriented underpinning a soundscape of electronic sequences which dallies with harshness and noise but also opts for a cinematic synth pop sound. Covering all the bases it isn't without its more contemplative and melodic moments, even taking in time to achieve a sense of stillness. The variation in composition might be a result of the fact that it was composed for a performance which took place earlier this year in Tanzwoche, Dresden, where under UV lights Una Shamaa, adorned in a white gown, moved expressively drawing on choreography from gothic, oriental and creative dance.

The Light in the Black Hole starts heavily with the swirling buzz drone, pumelling drum beats and heavy bass tones of the title track unleashing rolling rhythms drenched in swathes of buzzing, sweeping melodic noise, carried by looped bass tones into a busy cacophonous (w)hole. It's a powerful physical opener which is continued on the next two tracks. 'Mind Awake, Body Asleep' rumbles to distorted beats and electro sequences which bump and grind amidst bursts of static and explosive discord, while the fizzing and overheated digitized beats of 'Digital Duress' are sprinkled with melodic keys propelled by a heaving and shuddering machine pulse. You can imagine these working perfectly in a live context as red neon shadows the movements of the dancer situated centre stage, flanked by Hunter Barr huddled at his bank of equipment.

With its synth pop sequences the opening of 'If We Should Fail... (Black Hole Mix)' might offer something lighter in tone, but with hammering beats it subsides into the darker realms of techno, with tonal squelch and analogue sequences. Its clinical edge offset by floating atmo-synths, as it hurtles onwards through the darkness; its dirty, distorted and grainy textures eclipsed by lighter clean electronic sounds. The entire album flits between these tracks parenthesized as Black Hole mixes which opt for a more accessible electronic sound. Even better than 'If We Should Fail... (Black Hole Mix)' is 'We Need to Go (Black Hole Mix)' a dreamy electronic piece, morphing from graceful ambience into electro pulses and rhythms, shadowed by mellow and downbeat synths. It falls away into melancholic realms of tender solo piano chords and silence, before launching into a space age journey through the infinite cosmos with gliding synths and sequences. There's a sense of something flowering or birthing from the chaos on 'Rapture (Black Hole Mix)' with its dizzying synths, ascending scales and stuttered sequences as rhythms scatter and ricochet. Restless, relentless rhythms offering a wealth of possibilities for the improvised movement of Una Shamaa. 'After the Fire' offers a brief detour away from beats and sequences where bleak desolate droning opens up into chiming keys which assumes the form of a sci-fi horror soundtrack. It feels nostalgic, a glance back to what's been left behind from this rift in space and time. 'Faster than Deception' is harsher, pitting noise squelch against industrial rhythm with a clinical, mechanical edge softened by synth based orchestral strains which preserve the soundscape-ish style of the album. That said the flowing, tumbling rhythms and widescreen electro sequences of 'Bazille Murder' eschews the industrial and dance elements and most of the other sound textures for a cinematic sound, recalling eighties soundtracks. In an album that consistently evolves and delights, this one doesn't grab me the way it should.

Oriental dance is one of Una Shamaa's specialisms and the quickened chime of the final Black Hole mix of 'Fallen Men' offers an opportunity to showcase those movements before the wavering oscillations swell into melodic synths. It's all quite uplifting and synth-pop driven before Oblivion Guest return to the noisier and more physical terrain of 'Into Chaos' where fluctuating, turbulent drone wrestles with industrial clatter and clash cast against heavy electro battering. 'Last Gasp' is harsher still; a propulsive jet black improvised noise soundscape.

The Light in the Black Hole was created as "an explorative journey into a place where time and matter are repeatedly torn apart and reborn; the sound, the movement and the chaos as the universe prepares itself for the next big bang," and the atmospheric melodic electronics of the final track, 'Strangled Beauty', could be considered a lament for the death of the old. Given the album is also about rebirth you could also read it as a lament for the new world. Thwarted dreams, missed opportunities and potential unfulfilled. Old world, new world, whatever, it seems we're destined to repeat ourselves. Sound familiar? Oblivion Guest plan future events around The Light in the Black Hole and they're sure to be impressive performances as the soundtrack, available digitally and limited to a mere 100 copies on CD, composed by Hunter Barr is well worth seeking out. Intense and inventive, even on its own it's a compelling soundtrack. For more information go to Oblivion Guest bandcamp