Wednesday 25 September 2013

Review: Exponentia – 'Sadness'


The sophomore outing for Ludovic Dhenry, AKA Exponentia, is a blend of gothic and classical music. It's something that is often attempted but very rarely achieved, especially on shoestring budgets. The lack of classically trained session musicians mean that many artists opt for the synthesized sounds, and lets face it, if you're not using top end hardware or software it never sounds as good as it would with the real instruments. And yes, this is a reoccurring problem with Exponentia as well. But there are some interesting and redeeming factors to the album.

Firstly, Dhenry is a pretty good composer. Despite the fact that many tracks sound as though they've been pulled from a 90s Playstation RPG soundtrack, they are actually very atmospheric and evocative. Secondly, when the formula is a little more striped back and minimal in its approach it is incredibly haunting, especially when coupled with Dehenry's Gregorian chant style vocals.

Tracks such as 'The Wind Takes Its Life', 'The River Of Your Soul', 'Sadness – Part 2', 'A Shadow Smooths' and 'Finale' are all based around warm, hanging strings with notes flowing into each other smoothly. Sometimes there is a minimal beat, or a strange vocal section or even a juxtaposition of more modern electronic sounds. But they all work really well.

What lets the album down is the use of the wind and choir sounds, which just make the whole album sound dated and low-fi. It's a shame though, because if you listen past these things, the actual compositions are good.

'Sadness' is a very “bare-bones” affair, sounding more like a composer's private demo tape rather than a finished piece. But the fundamentals are undeniably present, and even in this form there are some strong tracks that still work. If you were to let Dhenry into a studio with half a dozen classically trained musicians, the end result would no-doubt be stunning.

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