A Circle In Stone

A 12 track ambient album (56m ) — released September 8th 2023 on Other Facts

Oliver Ho has long been motivated by the vast potential of multimedia art. Back in the early 2000s, the veteran producer established the Exist imprint to help light a path from the dancefloor towards the gallery or the theater. There was only one release - a compilation that featured artists such as Mick Harris and James Ruskin - but it left a loose thread that Ho has been biding his time to pull ever since. On "A Circle In Stone", Ho reboots the Veil moniker, following 2004's "Transform" with a cinematic montage of precise sound design, abstract electronics and manicured classical instrumentation. It's a far cry from his beloved industrial techno productions or the rugged EBM scrapes of the acclaimed Broken English Club project, training its focus on Ho's inner world and elucidating a few of the inspirations that have undergirded his musical identity since the very beginning.

Living in Wiltshire, an ancient county in the south west of England, Ho began to consider the silent impact of the area's bewildering Neolithic stone monuments. He was particularly drawn to Avebury, an immense megalithic marvel that was constructed almost five centuries ago and still confounds archeologists and anthropoligists. Initially assumed to be the work of druids, it's now known that Avebury is far older; in fact by the Iron Age, the stone circles had been abandoned and largely forgotten. But these structures trap history in their pores, and Ho taps into this energy to galvanize a 12-track sonic narrative that plays as a meditation on magic, nature and latent, prehistoric spirituality.

'Birth Seed' is a de facto title sequence that reinterprets the looming dread of 1970s horror soundtracks, augmenting it with polished digital scrapes and crashes and projecting listeners into the far future. Ho's early obsession with Coil's intense, sensual soundscapes is omnipresent in his harnessing of psychedelic-folkloric mystique but has been upscaled to 4K. The producer isn't simply trying to reinterpret well-worn industrial sounds, he's responding to far older narratives and channeling ancient energy into a sonic structure that's dark but not obscure. 'Embryo' layers tense, rhythmic vocals over growling bass drones and unsettling strings, slowly adding microtonal horns, field recordings and ASMR bells; as a piece of sound it's tactile and palpable - it's electronic music that feels uncannily human.

The influence of avant-garde classical sounds is evident on tracks like 'Arise' and 'The Setting Sun'. The former plays with the airiness of an orchestra tune-up, splaying fluttering bowed tones over tense, beating percussion, while the latter is pitch-black and unsettling, uncloaking shadowed histories with its animalistic horns, quivering strings and rattling drums. By the time we reach 'The Equiknoxx', Ho's electronic and acoustic elements have completely coalesced, leaving throbbing synthetic oscillations and overdriven squeals to scrape against Ligeti-style choral blasts. "A Circle In Stone" is music that's tangled wholly with the subconscious forces that underpin our every thought: dreams, hallucinations, gods, monsters and the vast open sea of imagination.

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