Daniel W J Mackenzie – Every Time Feels Like the Last Time

Every Time Feels Like the Last Time has been sprayed in pale January colours – a frosty white and grey – and is the first release of the new year from a label at the top of its game. Eilean Records can do no wrong, and this winter album continues their trend of excellence. It comes at an appropriate time of the year, because the opening piano staves off the cold with a warm, woolly melody, acting like a much-loved and well-worn winter hat, protecting the areas which need protecting the most.

The piano can’t stop the approaching sleety strings, and they creep in like a cool draught of silent air. Sometimes the warnings of ice seem less frequent, but never is it a record of calm. There are cracks, causing fractures in the sound, like ice splintering on the surface of a frozen pond, because the strings create their own pressing points of tension, scratching with sharp nails at the belly of the record.

Daniel W J Mackenzie, who also records under the alias Ecka Liena, spent three years constructing the album, and it shows. A number of intimate details live inside the music, and the time he’s spent on the record – the number of hours he’s spent caring for and crafting it – has resulted in a ripeness like that of a red winter berry. The music is like an interconnected web with its gently knotted locks of hair flowing down from the root. With phantom electronics and modest field recordings (is it unobtrusive because it’s quiet, or is it obtrusive because it’s there?), his music stands on top of a volatile fault line. This is music for unpredictable weather, where points of sharp light are turned inside out. Its jet-black shadow is like obsidian skin, laced together with a rough, leathery texture. The instruments gift the record a perceptible weight. Ornate and considered strings come and go, holding miniature worlds inside their slender bodies and carved hearts.

‘Confound II’ opens with a wind-chime clarity, contrasting the sullen piano which invades the piece, its sunken head staying for the most part in the lower, muddier register. Appearing just after is the far more aggressive ‘Blut Und Boden’. The cold snakes in by way of a viper-like body of static. It has a strand of psychotic noise – nothing, it seems, can stop this northerly wind.

Every Time Feels Like The Last Time is full of seasonal contrasts. Stillness becomes a surging storm. Brooding strings fade to grey. What had once seemed so restful turns into a wide awake, stuttering thing bringing with it a hefty, thundering distortion which tries to rip the track in two. Engraved in the music are claw marks – sound scars – to remind both artist and listener of the battle. A sobering broadcast and a sorrowful melody is all it takes, and its hopes seem to all but disappear in the bleak midwinter. Strings wilt in a downward spiral, and those grey skies never lift. The repeating piano melody of the epic ‘Abandonment II (Twenty Five Years)’ is soon blotted out by convulsing strings and dark-red moods of rage and deep upset, but even this is tasteful. Envious drones lie underneath, creating thick textures which swirl upwards into a funnel of pungent smoke. Medieval bells ring out to close the record, its cobbled streets made unclean with the deep stains of spilt blood. Like the music, it doesn’t wash out.

Available through Stashed Goods

www.eileanrec.bandcamp.com

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