MYSTERY SEA 01 | Birds Of Tin : Ene | [key ray]


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-"Key Ray" a postal collaboration initiated by Scott Hudgins (ENE).
I took Scott's original sounds and processed them into a series
of textural waves, with reoccurring themes and motifs.
Scott then readded his original sounds, a sort of reverse alchemical process.
I was very pleased with the results and the idea of "keys" and "locks"
which Scott suggested to comment on the recurring "rooms" of sound.
The CD is like walking into different rooms in a house,
taking in each rooms' distinctiveness while being fully aware that you are still surrounded by the same walls."

- Birds Of Tin, May 2001.


The very first release on MYSTERY SEA takes the form of an original collaborative effort between US organic auralscapes creator Birds Of Tin (Brooke Oates) & multiactivist Ene (Scott Hudgins)...
Here, they map out an haunted wandering into ever changing regions of calm looped tones with sporadic bursts of counterpoint abrasive elements... A slow flow of sounds mysteriously progressing and mutating with an hallucinatory effect...intuitive dark drones infused with half-remembered memories sketching an opiated path to an interzone between our innermost Self & natural phenomena... a psychogeographic metamorphosis...


01. key nell
02. open doors
03. paper lock
04. clear passage through
05. thin walls
06. entry
07. endless empty
08. key ray




VITAL WEEKLY 297|Frans de Waard
Birds Of Tin are one of those bands who are definetly underground.
Via releases on CDR, CD and vinyl, they have created a small output
that seems to find its way to the dedicated fans out there.
Here is a new release, again on CD-R on a new Belgium label, Mystery Sea, released in a full colour cover in a lovely small edition of 100 copies.
Birds Of Tin here hook up with Ene, nom de plume of Scott Hudgins, another active mind in the US undergound.
Birds Of Tin are easily classified as 'ambient industrial',
but I don't think this entirely justifies what they are doing.
And to classify Ene as another sample terrorist doesn't justify him either.
Both are around too long and have developed their own techniques.
Through the use of lo-fi equipment (one recognizes the old casio samplers by their lo-bit sampling rate) and likewise sound effects, they built epic drone pieces, which hold enough variations to be entertaining and are minimal enough to create a trance inducing state in the mind.
These epic pieces are sometimes torn down in a collage like manner, via speeches, environment sounds and the like.
Intense music is the result of this collaboration of two different minds that works remarkable well.

vital weekly

RECYCLE YOUR EARS|Nicolas Chevreux
For its first release, the new belgian dark ambient label Mystery Sea has chosen to present eight track composed together by two american projects, Birds of Tin and Ene.
"Key Ray" is a nice album of flowing drones, very surprising for people who, like me, were expecting something far more rhythmic, considering what Ene's "Cost vs Consciousness" album sounds like.
No beats here, but long soundscapes of dreamy tones,
slightly distorted background ("Open doors") and looped basses.
With its relentless droning of distant tunes and very bleak arrangements, this album sounds like a muffled storm, with a lot of bass and heavy elements gathering in the background, while the front sounds, lighter, are flowing nicely.
The CD is instrumental, with the exception of a long sampled ranting in "Paper lock" and "Clear passage through", which made me think a lot of the kind of things Godspeed You Black Emperor! like to sample (think of "Slow riot for new zero Kanada").
Sometimes getting a bit more in a noisy direction ("Paper lock", "Entry"), sometimes silence-like (the short "Thin walls"),
"Key Ray" is an unexpectedly experimental album that combines both very nice atmospheres and a thicker, somewhat heavier side on which the emphasis is more put on the effects applied to a very distant wall of noise than on the calm tones that dominate some of the tracks (like the melodic beginning of "Endless empty", before it gets full of saturated sounds).
Heavy in its atmospheric part and light in the noise, this album is a weird mixture that stays calm but never gets really relaxing, making the listener uncomfortable about wether a storm is going to break out of the dense elements layered on the tracks.
Not as twisted as Wilt, and darker and more disturbing than Liquid Morphine, this is a nice CD for Mystery Sea to present itself, and something that use bleak tones and drones in a personal way (which is all the more surprising when you consider that two differents acts are responsible for this sound).
A very ambient sea indeed, but that is deep and whose waters are not so calm.

Mike Graham
"...My impression is that this work is very 'serial', with discrete foreground episodes intermittantly punctuating a background of quiet and slow patterned drones, rather like a set of found objects places at semi-regular intervals on a gently undulating beach.
The sound is certainly less 'processed' than other BOT releases,
perhaps a result of foregoing the use of 'expensive computers' or
maybe owing to the style of ENE, I don't know.
There are moments when this sounds like musique concrete...
.key ray. has its own distinct voice, a spontaneous feel to it
with the extra-musical elements appearing almost like surprises,
like something unexpected turning up as you wander over a beach.
Overall, I thought a very good release in fine artwork, and a promising
start for MYSTERY SEA !"

Rated : an 8.4 for these eclectic immersions
The first release from Belgium's MYSTERY SEA label adds
Birds Of Tin+Ene.
This intriguing equation is solved by Brooke Oates and Scott Hudgins
who swap and reprocess each other's material, recombining everything
into the subtly surreal passages which lead to various zones of key ray's
oblique structure.
Touched by faint breezes, intriguing plains of desolation unfold
as key nell expands from the horizon.
Inexorably thrumming energies are heard through open doors,
slowly flickering amid wispy, wafting tones;
the final moments are scored by gritty high sheens.
Television voices, then steady-state drones open paper lock (12:43);
abruptly interjected musical deformations break that flow, leaving behind
a more ominous realm of nervous anticipation where assorted hauntings occur.

I suppose it makes sense that it only takes a few seconds
to pass through thin walls (0:14)... into the seething vapors of entry
where boiling clouds swelter in varying degrees of turbulence.
From slightly abrasive textures, title track key ray
shifts into a softer mode of rising/falling tonal loops to close the disc in obscure beauty.

The generally subdued, though definitely twisted, audioconstruction
of key ray will provide murky funhouse thrills for those who seek
out-of-the-norm soundscenes.
Birds Of Tin+Ene generate eight tracks of mysterious,
though not inaccessible, experimentation.


MANIFOLD|Vince Harrigan
Birds Of Tin collaborate with Scott Hudgins, aka ENE,
to create a sublime disc of strict light ambience.
Electronic ambience here will not mean keyboards or synth however,
nor does it mean "techno".
It means that the sound is airy, clean and spacious.
Expressive and rendered with the precision of one who would arrange beats.
But there's no percussion, it's a sustained drift and beautiful emotion that weaves its way through all the tracks.
Each track with it's own feeling, history and structure.
The only way to soak up every second of Key Ray is to either lay back, close the eyes and move straight into it for an hour, or to listen to it over and over.
You'll want to do the latter, as this is light, beautiful, mysterious ambient worthy of Tear Ceremony, Zero Ohms or Robert Rich.
Great stuff.
On the new Mystery Sea label, who I hope we can see more great releases like this from in the future.


While I am unfamiliar with Birds Of Tin's music I have heard an Ene album prior to this joint release.
With that, Key Ray isn't in keeping with Ene's Cost vs Conscious, that album has a greater range of styles and a certain unpredictability. While by comparison Key Ray is considerably more consistent thematically.
Tending towards the drone side of things, with a few tracks kicked off by vocal samples (deeply significant voices of evangelical preachers providing revelations) and/or rounded by less predictable bursts of experimentation. The use of vocal samples is fairly common, especially of this type at this time, but with that they are reasonably effective and work well with the flow of the album.
Bass waves roll out in Key Nell, with choral strings in a reflective mode through that. Focussing to a steady drone flow and maintaining. Gradual pulses add a certain cut effect, increasing the sense of an oscillated motion. The idea of strings remains a background hint, while the drone retains a certain sparseness.
Which is contrasted by the warm, purity of Open Doors ' first tones. Reverb adds an edge of distortion as the core rises in a sheet of sound. Darker bass and string intonations carrying through the initial drone loop. The sound structure intensifies, taking these sounds and giving them more of an open sweep. As this maintains there's is a contrasting crackle line, which leads to an overdriven detail - taut particulate vibration that brings conclusion. Paper Lock starts with an evangelical vocal sample, worked through a radio wave filter and echo effect.
Low drone captured in the background, while the voice and whine detail continue. This puts the smooth sound in a position to blossom with the end of the monologue; restrained all the same. This strikes at this moment of the likes of certain releases by Pimmon or Koji Asano - a maintained vibrant oscillation of hypnotic potential. Echoing for a moment as it switches, moving into a bass heavy string section (viola ?), then in turn to a glitching echo mechanic stream. Buzzed vibe with filtered voices, catching and extracting. Mounting in semblance of prior sections but with more swirl. Footstep strokes play a tapping rhythm and we have another experimental section - glitches and shifts. Though the oscillated drone buzz returns to be Paper Lock's body regardless of how it is teased out - and it is teased out, perhaps too much ?
Continuing with the use of the previous vocal sample, Clear Passage Through comes up with the same type of dialogue material. Through this pin point drone swirls shimmer and glisten, backed by more of a sheet spread effect. The whole something of a drone pulse, low oscillating mass through which the words carry. As this goes on a note comes up suddenly, vibrating with an hint of overdriven distortion and being dragged out into drone formation. This effect sustains but starts to fade, allowing resumption of the more bitty sound field to make its effect felt. The body fades down, with a repeated stroke coming up from within, adding to the overall feel of the track in the process. Building back to a grind note reprise of the start, but with more swept, clean pulsed notes going with it. These latter elements well up and flow together recalling some of the feel of the previous track in the process. Washing into immersive sound scapes, set adrift in smooth embraces.
In conclusion there are spacey electronic swirls, buzz edged moments in the mix. Thin Walls is a very brief piece, background noises that don't really come to anything, but lead into the environmental settings of Entry. Street sounds, breeze and light traffic, some music playing on a radio somewhere, carrying to where you are sitting. The swirl of sound becomes a little more static field mode, before falling off to leave the twang of the guitar heavy, blues melody, which is in turn replaced by a new focus, a sustained hum with slight fluctuations and the light stroke of rhythm a repeated rumble through. Resolving with time into a consistent pulsated loop.
From the passage of Entry we move on to Endless Empty, which wells up as a bass drift. Slight strokes pass through that, notes reverbed and hesitant in a sigh fashion. Further layers add to the build of the mood. Hitting a moment where the sound works on a tight vibrancy, warm and opening, spreading out in that endless thought. Clipped to a pause and then resuming, maintaining edge sounds that encompass all the same. A creeping feel of abrasion leads to a high and piercing pulse/whine, rise and fall siren that shifts pitch a little each time. String loop becomes tightly repetitive, the pulse lower in the mix more stable now. Falling off to breathy scrapes, backed by a low bass that could almost be dub informed. Sighing moment of reprise accompanied by a cut through of a noisier, excessive version of the sound. Building a certain level of contained chaos - burgeoning sounds, pushing at its limits. The end is sudden, as Key Ray reaches the conclusion that is Key Ray. Hesitant in its first moment, but building into mechanic pin point whirls that create a micro agitation that works well with the warmth of the bass waves that flow with ease. Patters describe a percussive influence through this detail. Slight overdrive is given, distorting for a moment, but as a separate layer rather than overloading the details that are all ready going to work. Crackles and creaks start to add a more stray element, with the distortive element becoming more of a swirling space sound. high-toned micro pulses offer a blip stream to the mix while the low drones maintain a constant presence. reaching a sound balance and maintaining that level for some time, then moving into streamlined sound-clack of tracks, and the whistle and whine of air currents round heavy moving objects. There is a moments pause as though finished, then a repeating bass not plays, as though from some tune, a slight crackle working as a sighing drift round the edges and other lines working in, which leads to a re-emergence, chromatic drone lines in a warm build scenario. Which carries the album to a smooth, slow fade, leaving the album on an up note.

SoundVision|TJ Norris
This is the first release on Belgium's new limited edition CD-R label Mystery Sea.
Bringing together Birds Of Tin (Brooke Oates) and Ene (Scott Hudgins) this disc is at once an anesthetic for solace.
On Open Doors the wash of squat loops phases through exotic and irregular tones. Paper Lock builds on a Christian radio broadcast of "sins and their inherent sacrifices".
After a minute or so of gibberish, the low-fi sonics throb through samples, like spinning a radio dial, built on jazz themes and other random oddities.
In its nest of haunting rhythm is where I wish this baby bird would lay.
Birds Of Tin have released about a dozen or so recordings since 1996, most memorable on the few stints with Augur.
Ene has played live with an incredible roster of diverse musicians from Kaffe Matthews and DJ Spooky to Matmos and the Haters.

Clear Passage Through
continues its foray into its Christian sample ramblings. Its edge is defined in its own bloated, illusionistic phrasing and deconstruction.
As it develops, an ambient synthesis of layered tones and encrusted noise filters make for pure experimental fare.
I am suddenly in a lengthy corridor of an international airport after having been blindfolded for 48 hours.
The chilling spatial concepts are endless on this disc.
Samples, sequencers, filters and a no-holds-barred approach make this type of nail biting listen one craves from a pulp urban reality.
Entry has a pitch glow of nighttime metropolis in its farthest corners where only the graveyard shift toils like a Persian mole.
The anchor of the recording can be dredged up through its Endless Empty, rich in its wind tunnel noise and vacuum-like antics.
Closing with the title track, Oates and Hudgins combine altered forces in this submerged work of electronic fury.
It's a glitch-filled, open wired symphony that loops in its introspection.
The ragged sine waves seem to attempt a transmission in synthetic tongues. Whatever the message, it is clear that the mission is accomplished in Key Ray.

tj norris

AMPERSAND|Jeremy Keens
Birds of Tin's The Label disk was reviewed in 2003_XX, but I haven't heard
(of) Ene this collaboration was apparently done long distance. Soft
suggestions of texture in the long tones, layered drones and taps of 'Key
nell' pulsing and briefly active at the end, but a minimal introduction to
this quartet of night seas. Relaxed drift in 'Open doors' as a soft note
sequence grounds higher notes, some washes and string notes. Pulses and
hisses, vent drones and distance noises suggestive, then a brief
almost-noise at the end. A preacher opens 'Paper lock' interefered and
echoed before the drone replaces, pulses and then a brief eruption of
clarinet loops; ethereal voice drones, broken pulses, machine scrapes. Then
the mood is broken in the final few minutes as scratching needles, some
samples, percussion and venting whooshes takes over.

Another preacher ('Clear passage through' is the preacher sample becoming
a bit of an easy reflex? The rhythms are interesting, but perhaps Eno/Byrne
have a bit to answer for) crackles into drones with a subsumed site
recording, rumbles and pulses, more crackling but drifting with held tones
and alternating with crackling before a busy final crunch.
The change in structure continues through the brief machine washes of 'Thin
walls' to 'Entry' where big vents with voices in and bird calls transforms
to guitars emerging from static then a pulsing tone and scrape machines, big
guitarish pulse builds then a sine ringing tone. 'Endless empty' is edgy and
shifting before a more consistent tonal pulsing, a buzz interrupts, drones
and ear-splitting bursts eases to shimmering climax and then a dense
propulsive burbling whoosh.
A more stable conclusion in 'Key ray' with an organically growing propulsive
looping ringing pulses and clicks that switches to a lovely layered soft
close. The album presents an interesting mix of extended slow development
with periods of dramatic change, which destabilises the listener intriguingly.

SONOMU|Stephen Fruitman
Birds of Tin (Brooke Oates) is a decidedly underground artist whose music
seems only to reach the initiated, due either to low-profile marketing or
limited runs or perhaps some combination of both. Fellow American Ene
(Scott Hudgins) is dug in at least as far underground as Oates. However,
whereas the former is known for his somewhat industrial ambient
soundscapes, the latter's reputation is more of a lo-fi samplemaniac.
'Key Ray' brings them together for the first time to produce a sound
highly appropriate to the name of the label imprint, Mystery Sea.
Underground goes underwater. Juxtaposing low drones with vocal, vinyl and
environmental samples, sound and texture float and drift, but also
occasionally run aground on jagged rocks, or get lost in labyrinthine
coral reefs or tangled up in seaweed. Although aquatic drift is the main
order of the day, it is not an entirely unhazardous experience and
signals of distress intrude at times. Creating an overall impression both
broad and minimalistic, with spurts of aural collage, it is as if,
speaking in the broadest terms, Gavin Bryars' 'Titanic' had sunk
containing electronic instruments instead of an acoustic orchestra.


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