Review: Validine Chronus – Transdermal (self-released, Apr 20)

It’s been a while since this tape actually came out, and there’s not really any excuse for me waiting this long to write about it other than I just recently was able to really dig in. I bought it after hearing (and enjoying) the twentieth anniversary reissue/remaster of the first Validine Chronus album, Ultia. The long-running solo project of composer Eric Bertrand incorporates a plethora of experiments and styles in each release, and Transdermal is no exception. These pieces unfold in a controlled manner, especially in relation to their haphazard construction from “samples, field recordings, and partially finished tracks,” each one exploring a particular sonic pairing or progression. The longer compositions on side A, as well as the nearly ten-minute “Digital E. coli” later on, are patient drones, with the former built on sustained tones that are surrounded by curling, washing strands of mechanical sound, while the latter slowly descends into beautiful, distorted chaos like a dying machine. It took me a while to come around on the rhythmic elements on “Tiny Hands” and “Atomic Clock,” but once I did I realized that they advance in equally interesting ways, with the structure provided by the percussion collapsing as each track becomes more and more hectic. Transdermal is a long album but doesn’t feel like it, and with so much ground covered across the nine pieces it’ll be one I’ll return to many times.

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