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Inner Dawn Foundation : Призраки над океаном тумана (EP)

Experimental Russian project Inner Dawn Foundation offer this worthwhile valedictory EP as their last release under this band name.

Inner Dawn Foundation's history is a complicated, but not well-documented, one that stretches back to about 2005, including several years of hiatus that ended with a couple of releases in 2017. Neither of those were perfect, marred as they were by bad luck and misadventure in the studio, but both were interesting enough to make me want to add the band to my 'watch list' - and, eventually, to pick up on this lengthy single-track EP put out towards the end of 2018.

Well, first - and most obviously - this doesn't suffer from the obvious, let's say, 'erratic sound quality' which afflicted the previous couple of demos. It's rocking on much more of a proper soundstage, mastered by Esoteric supremo Greg Chandler, and - as a purely digital release - it isn't sacrificing any of that in being transcribed to an old-school noise'n'hiss tape format. And whilst the physical collector in me slightly regrets that move, the more analytical and objective voice in my head tells me it was probably a good decision, pending any decision to move to a more expensive CD production.

So, 'Призраки над океаном тумана' - broadly translating to 'Ghosts Over The Ocean Of Fog' - sets out more of a clearly balanced stall, pulsing with energy as it evolves, slowly and hypnotically, through a long journey through dissonant, unexpected twists. Mournful guitars trace melodies and textures, roaming between delicacy and inchoate howling, counterpoint keyboards drift in and out, wordless vocals roar and chime, an organ abruptly takes a solemn and compelling centre stage... Much of it is hazy, blended into a murky background layer à la old-school Skepticism mixing techniques; some of it carries a slowed-down early-'70s Hawkwind vibe, some seems more rooted in Faust/Can Krautrock, some belongs to a post-Post-Rock world; the effect as a whole is one of slowly-revealed cycles, returning back to variants of the same rhythms and melodies, before it bows out with what sounds like a synthesised accordion fading into the same flat, sustained note with which the track began.

So far, so good - though I haven't mentioned the percussion yet. Which, to be fair, is significantly improved over previous ventures, inasmuch as the volume and presence are far better balanced. However, it's still not quite spot-on, in a difficult-to-pin-down way: I think it's probably that there are sections where, deliberately or otherwise, the mid-range detail disappears completely, leaving just a somewhat awkward combination of bass-kick and cymbals bracketing the musical theme. On those occasions, it can leave both percussion and melody at odds, each of them feeling a little orphaned and distant from each other. That said, I'm not a great fan of excessive cymbals at the best of times - to me, they fall into that brassy, tinny category which has utility in some genres, but generally does very little to enhance or convey a doom atmosphere. Sure, you can ride the crash and hi-hat as much as you like in Metal, and you might even be able to carry that off in a more Trad/Epic Doom format, but I don't think it does a whole lot for the more weighty and oppressive experimental and funereal end of the Extreme spectrum.

Well, that may have got a lot of words, but in actuality it's a comparatively minor complaint, of far less significance than any found in prior recordings. So I'm certainly not going to hold it against IDF's steady progression towards sorting out all of their personnel, budgetary and technical issues. 'Призраки над океаном тумана' isn't the release where you could say they've achieved all of that, but it's undeniably a big step forward for what I would consider to be one of the most interesting contemporary Russian bands you've never heard of.

As it turns out, it's also the last step - at least under the Inner Dawn Foundation name. Founder Lejonis told us on our forum that the project has changed so much over the years that it no longer seems valid. Accordingly, it's currently disbanded, with plans to return later in the year with the same line-up, a new name and a more progressive outlook. Well, IDF may never have quite demonstrated their full potential via the studio, but they worked hard towards achieving that. And, in the meantime, if their limited legacy of trippy, live-jamming, ritualistic/experimental experiences are your thing - and, yes, they very much are mine - this is well worth half an hour of your time to investigate. Essential, no - interesting, definitely yes. I look forward to hearing what will succeed it.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Призраки над океаном тумана

Duration : Approx. 26 minutes

Visit the Inner Dawn Foundation bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-04-22 by Mike Liassides
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