In contrast with much of his recent catalogue, Michael Idehall’s Aion Reborn has a claustrophobic, subterranean feel. Those familiar with the Swedish producer’s particular take on noisy, droning ritual electronic music are accustomed to foggy, obscure sounds and textures, but those same elements generally play out in larger spaces created with reverb and a wide stereo field. The music here sounds like it was recorded in a bunker or manmade tunnel of some kind, making the proceedings tenser, and more clangorous.
The key sounds Idehall deals in remain largely intact here. A song like “The Dead Must Be Silent” has the grinding loops, bells, and squeals of feedback that make up the palette of so many of his tracks. What makes it distinct is how close together those elements are in the mix, and how the actual sound design is geared to allow their edges to overlap and blur. “O98T” takes that formula to an ever more mechanical end, with the inhuman recitation of strings of numbers set against fizzling and sparking electronics, sounding for all the world like the dying throes of a number station.
The pivot on Aion Reborn is a subtle one in many ways, but what it does to the mood of the record is considerable. Where Idehall’s music is usually meditative and hypnotic (he coined the term “seancetronica” for it a few years ago after all), the overall mood of this LP is anxious and strained. “Canopy” starts with some light percussion and simple a simple tone based melody, but is soon subsumed by massive drones and a paranoid spoken word section about birds whose sinister implications far outweigh any other feeling the track might conjure. “Radiation from a Distant Gnosis” is seemingly made from some kind of metallic cord being struck by something mechanized, producing both waves of feedback and an unnerving rapidfire “ping” that gets more disconcerting the longer it goes on.
Compared to Michael Idehall’s previous 2018 release Prophecies of the Storm, this record is plainly more difficult and more likely to repel those not already inducted into the pleasures of his catalogue. The flipside is that the record has a distinct sensibility that makes it stand on its own, not to be confused as castoffs or addendum to anything else he’s done. With an artist as distinctive and prolific as Idehall, that’s as much as you can ask.