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Grlscz : Ak Spleen

French solo project Grlscz debuts with a rather underwhelming attempt at easy-listening Atmospheric Doom.

Some years ago, the French duo Grey November released their interesting musical take on Poe’s classic haunted-house tale 'The Fall of the House of Usher' with their eponymous full-length. Albeit not perfect and suffering from several lengthy sections, the album nevertheless succeeded in capturing some of the story’s forlorn, estranged atmosphere and showcased a sufficiently unique style of Atmospheric Doom. Cédric Seyssiecq of said band has now released a first solo effort under the tongue-twisting moniker Grlscz (apparently pronounced ‘Grilch’).

The musical direction on Ak Spleen is similar to Grey November’s, but lacks the strong female vocals (aside from a short guest appearance in 'Camille S’en Va) which were crucial to the atmosphere of the above-mentioned album. Unfortunately, there is little to replace them and give Cédric’s solo project an interesting identity of its own. The style essentially consists of half-whispered recitations, programmed drums, chord progressions of synthetic strings in the vein of his main band, distorted power chords, bass and some acoustic and clean guitars. Although the songs are shorter than those on 'The Fall of the House of Usher', there is little stylistic variation across the album. The occasional pleasant lead guitars and unspectacular nature samples hardly amend this monotony. There is also a marked absence of memorable hooks that could help tell the individual tracks apart or, indeed, give the listener any point of reference to relate to the music.

Despite these shortcomings, the album might have worked as a pleasantly atmospheric background texture, but the poor production undermines much of this quality, too. Most strikingly, the vocals are way too loud in the mix and never blend in naturally with the instrumental backbone. Exposed in this way, the listless recitations seem oddly out of place and therefore only serve to distract from the atmosphere rather than adding to it. The music would most likely have worked better had it been purely instrumental.

To make matters worse, the programmed drums sound dull and mechanical, entirely lacking the spaciousness required for an atmospheric style like this. In their faster moments, which could have added some dearly needed variation (most notably in 'Grosse Tete Et Meche Soufflee'), they are so poorly quantised they sound downright chaotic. The keyboards and thin guitars might have been just about forgivable sound-wise for an underground release, but they cannot really shine when everything around them falls short. For the bass, too, never quite finds its place in the mix, its picking noises being so distinct they highlight the less-than-ideal timing, further adding to the incoherent picture.

Despite approaching 'Ak Spleen' with a certain amount of curiosity and giving it several chances to reveal its hidden qualities, I cannot in good conscience recommend this unspectacular debut. Cédric has proved with Grey November that he does have a knack for atmospheric arrangements, and there are a few vague hints of that potential scattered across his solo debut, but as long as he does not put more effort into his songwriting, he can hardly tap into this talent. What is more, equipment for solid-sounding recordings has become quite affordable these days and basic mixing and drum programming rules as well as good plug-ins are available for free all over the web, so there is really no excuse at all for this album’s production. There is way too much good music out there that Grlscz, unfortunately, stands no chance of competing with.

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Reviewer's rating: 3/10


Tracklist :
1. Cell En Noir
2. Je Le Savais
3. L’instant Parfait
4. La Solitude Quantique Des Etoiles
5. Connasse
6. Grosse Tete Et Meche Soufflee
7. La Faille
8. Camille S’en Va
9. 28.12.2016
10. Untitled

Duration : Approx. 55 minutes

Visit the Grlscz bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-10-01 by Dominik Sonders
Rotten Copper
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