With the penultimate review of this series of six Black Horizons tapes, we are presented with a reissue. While this is the first edition of Distel‘s Puur to make its way to cassette, these songs have surfaced in a few other formats on other labels in recent years. I’ll admit that, aside from having seen the name pop up a few times on the Beläten web shop, I hadn’t yet perused the chilling art created by this strange Dutch duo. Upon first listen, I was immediately convinced that this tape belonged farther back in my review queue so as to allow me adequate time.
Distel’s brand of stalking, cold electronic environments works well on the cassette format, with the gentle hum of my beat up tape deck adding a small layer of distortion beneath hovering atmospheres and clicky, altered beats. Percussion fills these songs out in a broad way that is often ignored in electronic genres, swooping through lower frequencies while also utilizing scratchy samples to bring a full, expressive range. But it’s not just on these technical levels that Distel excels, in fact, it’s simply the framework for a full-force experience that is more emotionally connected and pained than one might expect from such a seemingly alien sound set.
While many of the smooth, nebulous warped stretches of synth lay lower on the spectrum to the point of being almost oppressively bass-heavy, there are clips and chirps that cut through frequently, little pock marks in an ocean of unease. These small splotches of expression in such a dark tapestry often communicate far more than the buried and distorted vocals often do, conveying a struggle against an emptiness that swells so large it could envelop the entirety of Distel’s sound. Things occasionally get busier and more chaotic on songs like “Ämne” (which features a guest appearance from Najah of :codes), but the overwhelming murk and weight remain dominant themes.
Folks looking for a painfully skewed take on every dark corner new wave has branched into will find fulfillment in Puur, yet this album also has carved a slightly new niche. I can’t bring myself to give this a name, which is a frequent “problem” I find with many of Black Horizons’ releases. There are nods to coldwave, darkwave, industrial, minimal synth, and god knows what other subgenres I’ve never heard about, yet Distel drinks from every cup without committing wholly. Enjoy the occasional glances into the void Puur provides, but remember that there is always something shining through just beyond the darkest moments.