Aperus: Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure

by Ben Fleury-Steiner, e|i Magazine

On first listen to the first few tracks, it appears as though the opener "Dark Moon" (initiation) is misleading. Its very slow moving and rather dark mood seems to suggest the beginning of an ominous journey. Yet many of the tracks on Tumbleweed Obfuscated by Camera Failure (TOBCF) are far more grounded by soothing melodies. But when considered in the context of the cd's metanarrative of mistaken discovery, it makes sense. Aperus's (Brian McWilliams) purpose on "Dark moon" is not to go anywhere in particular, but to evoke a deep and ghostly sense of reflection in the listener. Mission accomplished. And once this track fades out, the rest of TOBCF like repeated inspections of McWilliams's curious cover photo taken at the sprawling Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, takes on a much more amorphous vibe. In many ways, the overall ghostly tone is quite reminiscent of the 2002 Hypnos-Binary release Hell's Canyon by John Duvall. For a lack of a better description, both are works of very melodious dark ambient played by obviously well trained musicians. But unlike Hell's Canyon, there are also moments of uplifting beauty on TOBCF.

Tracks like "Magnetism" with its soaring piano score demonstrate that McWilliams is a sucker for Enoesque, softer ambient stylings. On the other hand, adding to TOBCF's overall unpredictability are far more unpredictable tracks like "Echo Canyon" with its strange rhythms and hollow, metallic undercurrents. McWilliams is apparently a great lover of many different sounds and textures, as he never seems quite content to ride any one theme for too long. Indeed, the closer "Vanishing Terrain" seems to come full circle as its subtle melody is bled over with deeply atmospheric white noise and various mechanical stirrings.

While TOBCF may seem at times a bit unfocused, overall McWilliams's willingness to constantly take risks pays off. Far from "failure," the CD cover image of a tumbleweed on a dark, foreboding cliff bathed in soft red hues, is an accurate analog for the interplay of dark and light sounds. Like the unexpected camera glitch that created this beautiful visual, TOBCF captures an artist with a willingness to make mistakes and, as it turns out, to capture moments of often stunning sonic artistry.