Keser are an electronic duo from Scotland who formed in 2005. Audemaus is their third recording, following Esoteric Escape (2006) and Robo Ghost (2009). All three have been released by the Scottish label Alex Tronic Records, and they just keep getting better and better. The title Audemaus is Latin for “Let Us Dare,” and is a most appropriate term to describe what the duo have accomplished here. Keser have released one of the finest ambient/electronic albums of the year, with their only real competition being label-mates Neu Gestalt’s earlier Weightless Hours.
I always have to be careful in using the word “ambient” as it comes loaded with a load of preconceptions. The worst one by far is that some people think of the genre as “music to watch paint dry.” Sorry, but when the music is done right, there are a great deal of dynamics involved, and “boring” is definitely not one of them. Actually, I hesitate to call Audemaus ambient at all, but it is a term the band have chosen, so I’ll go with it.
Audemaus opens up with the intriguingly titled “Aqua Aura.” According to the press release, the title is also Latin, and means a “natural crystal coated in gold fumes.” It is certainly an evocative turn of phrase, and the sound of the tune draws the listener in immediately. The drum machine that is used throughout the album sets the perfect tone, as I noticed early on. What Keser excell at are creating atmospheres of guitar and synth-sounds that are hauntingly unforgettable. “Aqua Aura” is the first of these.
“King of the Satellite Town” starts off relatively slowly, but picks up an enormous amount of steam when the guitar kicks in. The synth melody sets things up nicely, and the automated handclaps serve their purpose. But when the distortion-filled guitar rains down, all hell breaks loose. This is the type of moment that I live for as a fan of this type of music, and Keser play it perfectly. The first single from Audemaus was “Moon House,” and it follows “King of the Satellite Town” on the album. The song is another “builder,” starting out relatively stripped, and gaining a great deal of power and focus as it moves along.
As something of a one-two punch, the second single of the album is “Voltiguers,” which comes right after “Moon House.” It certainly makes sense for the tracks to be programmed the way they are, for “Voltigeurs” has a lot in common with “Moon House” in the way it is constructed. It also starts out slowly, and builds to a monstrous crescendo.
“Illusion of Free Will” is another highlight, with the guitar tracing some of the most bittersweet lines I have heard in some time. The main theme sent me a long way in time, to an album I will always cherish, Script of the Bridge by The Chameleons. The sounds Reg Smithies coaxed out of his guitar on that record spoke volumes, and much of “Illusion of Free Will” reminds me of it.
The tenth and final track on Audemaus is a brilliant seven-minute piece titled “Roaming Empire.” Once again, the sound is lush, and the guitar dominates. The way this piece builds and builds is mesmerizing, and will have one humming the melody long after the album has ended. Although the disc has just been released, Audemaus has already taken its place as one of the finest Autumn releases this year in my book. For those curious about the genre of ambient/electronic music, Audemaus is an excellent example of a group getting it right.