Demdike Stare’s trilogy of vinyl-only records in 2010 – Forest Of Evil, Liberation Through Hearing and Voices Of Dust – showcased a haunted, immersive sound. Taking in ambient, dub and techno influences, field recordings, sinister chanting and tribalistic percussion, the results were as mysterious and otherworldly as you’d hope for from a duo who referenced The Tibetan Book Of The Dead and displayed a fondness for occult imagery. Tryptych is a three-disc set that combines the aforementioned albums with an extra 40 minutes of unreleased material from the same sessions.
While there’s a consistently foreboding vibe to the collected material here, it’s amazing just how much range Sean Canty and Miles Whittaker manage to cover within the confines of their aesthetic. Tracks like ‘Bardo Thodol’ and ‘Regolith’ are characterised by hypnotic, menacing percussive patterns and imposing low-end. ‘Desert Ascetic’ is dominated by a deep, throbbing bassline that’s surrounded by ghostly, barely-there vocal chants. ‘Repository Of Light’ and ‘The Stars Are Moving’ reflect Whittaker’s background in minimal techno, both featuring electronic pulses that seem to be trying to glide their way through unsettling drones (it’s at points like this where the death/rebirth imagery really makes sense). Elsewhere there’s the dread-infused funeral march of ‘Viento de Levante’ and the voodoo-tinged ‘Regolith’, while the haunting ‘Matilda’s Dream’ raises hairs on the back of your neck with its waves of spectral ambient hum.
The bonus material included with the Tryptych set is more than worthy. ‘Nothing But The Night 2’’s eastern-tinged sound slightly jars, seeing that the track is sequenced after the desolate ‘Matilda’s Dream’, but it’s an impressive track in its own right. ‘Filtered Through Prejudice’ has a shady, immersive ambience all of its own, while on ‘Library of Solomon Book 2’ you can hear the ghost of Public Image Ltd in a submerged, echoing post-punk bassline. It’s a fascinating moment that epitomises the music Demdike Stare make: ever-shifting, ever-shadowy, ever-surprising. 160 utterly absorbing minutes.