Right from APOK‘s portentous orchestral opener “Sutkekh”, iVardensphere’s Scott Fox makes his intentions clear; this an ambitious record with an equally ambitious scope. While the instrumental blend of tribal rhythms and analogue synths first laid out on 2009’s Scatterface and refined on last year’s Bloodwater is still the mode of the day, APOK is an exploration of the myriad directions that formula can be pushed, mutated and hybridized. The remarkable thing about it is that even taking into account the input of longtime member Chris LaCroix, new project members Yann Faussurier of Iszoloscope and Frédéric Scarfone of Memmaker as well as a large number of collaborators from across the industrial spectrum and beyond, it’s still a cohesive listen, and what’s more, a distinctly characteristic one.
Originally conceived as an EP of experiments in non-instrumental songwriting, APOK certainly doesn’t lack for variety in the style of its eleven new songs. However, even with five of those tracks co-credited to other artists the album deftly avoids subsuming iVardensphere’s own identity within external influences. Appearing early in the tracklisting, the monstrously groovy “Here Lies Lily Brant” stands as one of the finest examples yet of the project’s modus operandi. Its creepy samples of a seance play out over pounding drums and a thick, warm analogue that through the song’s cold atmosphere. Starting at the same mark, “Archeron” and “Myopic” (which feature guest spots from Caustic’s Matt Fanale and God Module’s Jasyn respectively) show iVardensphere’s willingness to pull back a bit, allowing space in the already busy mix for vocals. They’re both dancefloor worthy, but deftly avoid “token club song” syndrome, achieving a real movement and evolution throughout their runtime that mirrors the thrust of the entire record. It’s perhaps the need to make space for singing that moves the songs in directions they might not have otherwise gone in, a theory that I:Scintilla collaboration “Cracked Earth” reinforces with its fresh take on the tribal drumming versus electronic grind trope.
But really, it’s in the attention to detail which is apparent throughout APOK that the deft touch of Fox and company is thrown into sharp relief. The lilting, eastern tinged “Chasing the Dragon” sounds like a slice of Collide style trip-hop with the same lushness and sense of tact that comparison implies, while “Of Ancient Reprise”, a co-production with industrial-tribal pioneers (and admitted influence) This Morn’ Omina, finds a pleasing balance of personalities, each interacting with, but never taking the spotlight away from the other. Nothing on the record feels tossed off or glossed over, every element feels carefully considered; a concern for minutia that seems even more impressive when considering the album’s relatively short gestation period.
Although it’s important not to underrate the value of collaboration in assessing the considerable merits of APOK, it’s equally important to remember how fast those sorts of creative partnerships can go off the rails and result in formless, shapeless records with no identity. In APOK we have the opposite, an album where outside influences serve to illuminate the character of the group that made it. While the groundwork was laid on their previous releases, iVardensphere have delivered an astonishingly well-crafted and refined version of their sound here, one that justifies them both as an act worthy of global attention and as part of the vanguard of new Canadian industrial.
APOK will be released on November 8th. You can pre-order it here.