As an accompaniment, I was invited to listen to the Shogun Assassin soundtrack, which is cited as an influence on this album. This edgy soundtrack is of fear, possession and revenge. So too fear, sleep, dreams and nightmares are integral to this work.
“I, Awake” is a series of deeply disturbing atmospheric synthesised pieces, working through stages: Am I Awake, Awake, Adrift, Looming, Foreboding and finally Black Dracula. “Am I Awake” starts with a barely conscious piece, characterised by the ambience of heavy breathing before the atmosphere sharpens and dark threats impinge upon the scene. A bleak and melancholic guitar melody intervenes. Like a progressive work, there’s an element of feeling your way through this as moods change. While there’s a dream-like and psychedelic quality, there are suggestive moments of post rock and sludge in there too. My conclusion at the end of the first section “Am I Awake” was that whilst each of its four passages has something to say, I found it all rather disjointed.
“Awake” again is a series of movements from which to take your pick. Starting edgily, I rather preferred the reflective post rock ambience of part 2, which has a shimmering feel of a wondrous, icy world. This leads into the tick-tock of a clock or falling rain but it’s all too fleeting as Part 4 consists of old-style heavy sludge. That in itself is over in a whisker as “Adrift” gets going with another mystifying sequel of reflection and heaviness. I was relieved to see that “Adrift Part 3” was six minutes in length as I was hopeful that finally there might be some continuity. Indeed, it was nice to bathe in the rock-synth vibe in the knowledge that it wasn’t all suddenly going to change. This was the highlight so far as Upcdownc allow themselves to develop the sound into powerful heaviness while injecting a psychedelic feel into it. The sound of unhealthy heavy breathing follows. The atmosphere is thick and it’s as if we’re being launched helplessly into space. Birds sing and there’s a more delicate feel in the in the air of “Looming”. For once this is developed as a post rock melody creates expansion. This blends into a dark ending and the sludge-filled world of “Foreboding”. Part I ends in a chaotic mass, triggering two minutes of mind-altering melancholy. After the lack of flow which had gone before, I had great hopes for the fifteen minutes of “Black Dracula”. Starting melancholically, a dreamy sound lingers in the air as it develops in post rock style. An insistent sound chimes out quietly as “Black Dracula” takes another ambient direction. Synthesised winds blow. Now it’s dark and there is a deep thread as patient sludge combines with echoing sound waves. It trudges along without purpose, unusually taking advantage of time, before exploding into a chaotic mass, and ending with tense dialogue suggesting a horror which I hadn’t felt while listening to this mysterious work.
Frankly, I’d lost the point of all this by the time I got to “Black Dracula”. It’s creative and evocative in parts for sure, but I just found it all too random. Too many short soundscapes follow other short soundscapes without continuity. When Upcdownc allow it to develop, it’s more interesting, but overall I just found “I, Awake” frustrating to listen to.
(5.5/10 Andrew Doherty)