The first impression you get from Two Angles of a Triangle is one of size. After all, it’s a whopping 1 hour and 15 minutes long and stretches across two discs and fourteen tracks. If you’re thinking you could take it all in over the course of a single sitting, then I doff my cap to you. Like all albums of such ambitious duration, Two Angles of a Triangle requires patience and dedication and, more than most, rewards such endeavours.
The sense of immensity Reto Mäder – who also records as part of noise duo Ural Umbo – works with extends beyond merely racking up the tracks and slapping on some elaborate artwork, and into the nature of his music itself. The instruments are familiar: guitar, electronics, field recordings, percussion, harmonium and a wealth of others, but he rarely takes the easy course of juxtaposing them in conventional fashion to create easily-identifiable rhythms, melodies and themes, instead building up loops or repeating patterns that deconstruct the function of each instrument. Guitar notes are stretched and bent, cymbals and drums become oblique metronomes ticking away under a blanket of untethered bass drone. By honing in on the properties and nature of every sonic element and melodic snippet, and then manipulating them in ways that are subtle (this is not a loud album, even when the volume does increase), yet intense (think Eliane Radigue with a doom metal background), Mäder is able to create pieces that are more intricate and more atmospheric. On opener ‘Betwixt’, strident drones and bass notes linger and drift before Mäder gradually introduces echo-laden guitar patterns that seem to sweep and soar like plumes of smoke or the distant swooshes of cars on a far-off motorway. Again, a sense of expanse is palpable, and I’m reminded somehow of Vangelis’ Blade Runner score accompanying Ridley Scott’s memorable footage of gigantic, pyramidal buildings lost in an endless city that drifts past the windows of Harrison Ford’s floating car.
There is something fantastical about the music of RM74, but it’s hard to pin down in the way of many dark ambient artists. There are no satanic references or nods to bleak pre-Christian religions, no serial killers or pagan rites; which is perhaps why the atmospheres vary from shadowy pastorality to (in my case) subliminal images of sci-fi dystopia. Instead of accentuating a specific vibe or concept, Mäder develops each track as if it were a phantomatic episode in an obscure narrative that only he himself has full visibility of. This approach is mirrored in the music: instruments are dropped into mixes and then removed, or distorted so that they can barely be identified. Equally, whilst much of Two Angles of a Triangle is sombre, or even bleak, Mäder deftly avoids becoming maudlin or cloyingly morose. ‘A Shimmer of Bronce’ and ‘Orka’s Dream’, in particular, are beautiful to the point of being elegiac, contrasting nicely with the haunted, funereal finality of closer ‘Show Me The Shadow Of The Sun’ or the ghostly arpeggios of ‘Samsa’; and throughout the album there’s a sense of contrasting emotions, of darkness being balanced by light, despair countered by hope. For all the industrial textures or obtuse drone repetitions, Two Angles of a Triangle is a deeply melodic album.
Despite the amount of time one spends with Two Angles of a Triangle, it never loses an ounce of this intrinsic mystery. The third angle remains resolutely out of reach, if you will. It’s an excessive album, that much is clear, but it’s also beguiling, and it reveals more details the more listens it gets. I’m reminded of the title of a recent Ezekiel Honig album, Folding in on Itself. Two Angles of a Triangle feels like it’s been folded in on itself, and the delight, as long as it may take, is in peeling back the layers to try and fathom what’s hidden beneath.