Review: Erdem Helvacioglu + Ulrich Mertin – Planet X

“Without warning, a new object – Planet X – appeared in the heavens: a mysterious entity intruding upon a vast ancient system. Hailed as a paradise by some, an expeditionary force discovers instead that it represents a menace to human existence. Hunted by a superior alien intelligence and explorer is trapped and used as a test for the ultimate assimilation and extermination of humanity. This is the tale of his doomed fight, grasping for the last snatches of his soul.”

It’s therefore of no surprise that Planet X commences on a rather sombre, somewhat ominous note. The opening track depicts the emergence of the planet itself: nudged into view by frictional string scrapes on both sides, propelled gently into view by the phased whoosh of electronic noise and walls of viola that melt into downward glissando. The seed of the album’s alien abstraction is planted here, and thus begins its gradual unhinging of familiar and “earthly” textures – the typically graceful tones of guitar and viola are contorted and upturned, slowly engulfed by a “Planet X” logic that calls upon the most abrasive and distant aspects of the avant garde.

“Gradual Annihilation Of The Mind” is the point at which the album’s atmospheric tension is most explosively amassed, seemingly accounting a psychological struggle to retain a sense of self as alien experiments seize control; threat abounds on all sides, with sheets of cavernous string drones flickering aggressively and swamping the gentle grounding of finger-plucked guitar. The climax is colossal in scale – an obliteration of everything, swirling reverb, viola and static into a psychotic state of frenzy that moves eternally upward, upward.

It’s a teasing record in some respects: shedding harsh light on cavernous open space and promptly blotting it out with thick waves of sound, and tracing viola/guitarviol melodies that hover on the fringes of the melodic while ultimately remaining in ungraspable, contorted shapes. That said, the album never toys with the protagonist’s chance of survival – collapsing into the chaotic void feels inevitable right from the off, foreshadowed by the glimmers of unrest in Planet X’s early moments that unfurl into the fiercely dissonant objects populating the soundscape later in the work.