Ital Tek first emerged on the scene in 2006 as a dubstep/IDM producer with a play into darker sounds. Influenced by the likes of Aphex Twin on one of his first EPs (which you should definitely check out because it’s filled with Arnold Schwarzenegger samples). Hollowed is Ital Tek’s 10th full length record and it shows his maturity through the use of darker, metallic, and almost machine-esque sounds. Hollowed takes us on a journey through an inviting and subtle soundscape that you can feel break apart as the song progresses. Organic parts combat darker, more mechanic sounds which is perfectly described in the title as A Delicate Balance. You can feel a multitude of layers through the growth of the songs that adds complexity and balance to very little dissonance. Everything seems meticulously organized so as not to interfere with competing instruments and sounds but to create a very layered but not quite unified sound while Redeemer feels like a dark choir sampled over echo-y percussion. Redeemer certainly has a heartbeat but it’s hidden under the sharp vocals that are melodically dark but bright at the same time. They bring a counterbalance to the consistent mechanical swirly synths, guitar drones and sputtering hi-hats.
Beyond Sight is a track almost needing it’s own paragraph (and it’s my blog so I gave it it’s own paragraph). This track is an outlier. While it still contains everything Hollowed is embodying, it has a bounce to it. I’m finding that a lot of these tracks are very contradictory in that Beyond Sight has a very soft synth arpeggio guiding the way, it eventually shows it’s true grit with that same synth getting a little dirty. Kinda like Trent Reznor came in and said, “you need more dirt, asshole!” And this isn’t the grit/dirt that you find in the other tracks. Those are more mechanical in nature. This is like a clean synth got hooked up with a Strat and worked together with a big fuzz pedal while the amp was peaking. This track still takes us through a journey and makes us think about how we felt when we first heard the beginning of the first track.
As we get further into the record, we see some of the IDM and dubstep come to play. Beyond Sight got us in the mood to nod more than we had in the beginning. Terminus has a sense of tension building the entire time while also being enjoyable and easily vibe-able (note: just coined the term vibe-able). That being said, Cobra just gives it to us. We get a little of that cliché dubstep lead in. Yeah, yeah. 1/4, 1/8, 1/16, we get it. Just give us the drop. He does, and it’s good. It’s full, continuously building, and gripping. What makes it better are the smooth and minimal transitions. We fall into a little kalimba party right before going back in to feel that synth drive and bounce back in again and again. Mind you, this happens not even halfway through the record. What an adventure we are on! The next few tracks give us a little more relaxation with simple samples and those swirly synths and percussive sounds we all love. There are a few awkward transitions and what feel like unfinished thoughts especially in Memory Shard. Maybe it’s to make sure we’re still paying attention?
Out of nowhere we get an almost trip-hop sound in Murmur. We get those bouncy drums and constantly crescendoing synth strings. A pulsing bass drives the song which are all the elements of a good Massive Attack or Portishead concoction. Of course we follow it to an abrupt metallic synth which is like putting Ital Tek’s signature on the song. Now, some of the work done on this record is clever and fitting but there are a few things that catch my attention more than the rest. Aquamarine is exactly that. The synth line to start is intelligent and drives the feeling of the song. Hearing Tek’s massive saws and pulsing synth lines on top of this harp-like melody feels like a climax halfway into every bar. To top it off, he adds some beautiful vocal samples that add a rich texture to the pushing and pulling of the layers of synths, percussion, and bass.
As the record continues we feel more of that dirty dirty wub. Wub? Wub. Reflection through Destruction feels like Tek gave Trent Reznor’s (wow two Trent Reznor references) How To Destroy Angels a punch in the throat. It’s big, it’s distorted, and it makes you think about how good (underground) dubstep can be. The last few tracks show Tek maturing. He gets a little spacey on us but retains a lot of that pulsing vibe we’ve gotten used to by now. Jenova is a track I could see on some Tom Cruise space movie as they leave the planet they once knew as home behind. It’s got some great chord progressions that we’re used to in popular music and it’s refreshing to hear it in an atmosphere Tek is creating. It’s dramatic in the good way.
As Vesper leads us into the final track, we hear atmospheric sounds more than anything. No mechanical, saw driven synths. We’re floating. Waiting for the finale. Vacuum I is just that. Orchestral, ominous, but pulsing. This song takes a little longer to grow than the others. It keeps the drama of Jenova but adds the Ital Tek touch of adding a little more bass. It takes a strange turn into an ambient loop of soft, airy synths that eventually falls into echo. Maybe we’ll get a sequel? Vacuum II? We’ll see in a couple of years.
Here are some links to Ital Tek’s music: