Previous album Faking Gold and Murder had Æthenor fans split right down the middle, and the presence of prophetic Current 93 frontman David Tibet seems to be the most prominent reason for this. Personally I’m a fan of a lot of his work and found his vocal performance to be particularly strong, though I can understand that those yet to be converted would have a hard time getting on with the release given the very central role Tibet undertakes. Perhaps En Form For Blå will unify followers again – not only are vocals entirely absent, but also this is arguably the finest selection of Æthenor tracks to date.
Drummer Steve Noble is a new addition to the existing trio of Stephen O’Malley, Daniel O’Sullivan and Kristoffer Rygg, and the way in which he adapts effortless to the continually shifting landscape makes him more than worthy of the spot – there’s relatively little of that fluid, roll-around-the-kit improve often used as an mindless bed for this sort of music, and Noble’s transitions – from gentle cymbal chime, to jackhammer snare, to total silence – demonstrate an effortless understanding of how to best incorporate himself.
The 14 minutes of opening track “Jocasta” act as a thorough introduction to En Form For Blå – incorporating all of the guttural bass slurps, astral electronics, metallic percussion thuds, crumbling noise and beautifully executed dynamic shifts of which the album consists. It’s not a record that feels content sitting still; whilst the band occasionally lock into extended jams, they never indulgently submerge themselves for too long. Æthenor are forever tumbling into fresh territory on this record and always take an engrossed listener with them.
What makes En Form For Blå so impressive is its ability to cut abruptly between atmospheres without any disruption to flow – each member is instantly responsive and manages to hold the grooves together every step of the way, even during some of the more fierce and unpredictable convulsions that threaten to throw them off course. This seems to be the sound of Æthenor climbing out of the darkened recesses occupied on previous releases and embarking on a frenzied exploration into the infinite world around them.