The basic premise of Cantata Dilemma is a bit odd. The Melbourne, Australia based producer and musician has made a career out of making music that seems to be fueled entirely by dread. His music is intense, unsettling, and sometimes downright frightening-- sounds that are as accessible as a disembodied, jittery, high-pitched piano melody as they are ferocious.
"Dilemma," his second release under his own name, is his first project entirely devoted to the sounds of his ancestors. The title is a nod to the damage they can do; in "Dilemma," you can hear the raw, bloody power of their ancestors' music, if you listen close enough.
The deep, rumbling bass tones of "Who We Are" sound a lot like the notes from a Grimm's old piano, and "The Bone of His Head" is cut with the same eerie, spectral quality. It's hard to imagine that someone who is so full of life and willing to plunge into the sounds of his ancestors would go to such great lengths to preserve their own versions of history, but Cantata Dilemma has a few intriguing twists and turns within the six tracks. On the opening "The Bone of His Head", for instance, a recurring drone makes over the piano notes, creating a strange, bubbling sound. "The Bone of His Head" is followed by a looped melody that sounds like a brain being scanned, and a phantom piano melody that sounds like a distant, pre-recorded voice.
The first half of the album is spent constructing a new soundscape from scratchy piano chords and scratchy mouse clicks, but the second half of the album is filled with riffs of piano and mouse clicks that are just as irritating. The brief "Aethereus" is a strange, unearthly piano track that seems to be just scratching the surface of what Cantata Dilemma is going to do with his music. It's filled with small instruments that sound like small pieces of machinery, and the piano is just a quarter of the way through the piece. The rest of the album is filled with like-minded pieces, like "Wildfire", a 12-minute drone piece that makes a great soundtrack to a live performance. It's not quite a "soundscape," but it's certainly an impressive enough listen.
Cantata Dilemma's music is a bit of a rarity in the world of ambient, but that doesn't make it any less of a work of art. His music is full of emotional, physical, and sonic details that are both captivating and unsettling, and it's certainly a sound worth keeping an eye out for.