Boomkat Product Review:
DarkSonicTales is a project by Rolf Gisler and his eponymous album his first for Hallow Ground. Having been granted an artist residency by the label in a 300 year-old farm house in the Swiss countryside in autumn 2019, the Lucerne-based musician and sound artist explored the peculiar sonic environment of the building and its surroundings through the use of field recordings, modular synthesizers, guitar, bass, kalimbas, a singing saw as well as self-built instruments.
"'DarkSonicTales' starts with kalimba sounds and field recordings, setting the stage for 'Sonic Darkness' a self-referential spoken word piece whose sinister jazz-like sound calls to mind Bohren & der Club of Gore. The following »Spring Feelings« contrasts insect sounds with harsh noise elements, elegiac drones and a throbbing rhythm. It’s not quite what you’d expect from a piece with such a title, but the stories that Gisler tells throughout the record are more concerned with uncovering the hidden histories underneath what meets the eyes than (re-)creating idylls. The nine minute-long »I Still Believe« further underlines that by bringing together glistening synthesizer notes with industrial-like drones and field recordings that give it a palpable effect before Gisler unexpectedly changes course and quite literally bursts into song.
Towards the end of »DarkSonicTales,« the music becomes notably more minimalistic. Gisler experiments with the dynamics of modular drones on »Kind of Restless,« juxtaposing birdsong and ominous electronic noises on »Best Buddies« before a mid-tempo beat emerges, making the record close on a decidedly hopeful note. These dark sonic tales, they have a happy ending. »DarkSonicTales« is an organic album in more than one sense of the word. Reacting to and reflecting the world around him as well as expressing his inner one, Gisler gives the sounds at the core of his multifaceted compositions space and lets them breathe. Working along stark contrasts and with surprising twists, he also shines a light on the atmospheric and emotional ambiguity of the world he encountered during his solitary artist residency—unearthing the hidden layers underneath what is perceivable."