This is a new CD but there are some marks on the disc. It plays perfectly.
After 11 home produced tapes Jim has donned his CD trunks and now dips his toe into ‘The Big Pool’. ‘Tower of Darkness’ is a fair representation of Jim Kirkwood’s work – eerie, Gothic, atmospheric and powerful all at once. The album opens with ‘The Mad God’, a piece based on Michael Moorcock’s book ‘The Mad God’s Amulet’. Jim uses Moorcock as a great source of inspiration and ideas based on his writings cover the span of his work. The piece opens with crashing drums and strident strings over an ominous soundscape, building slowly as a mischievous synth toys with the atmospherics. Layer after layer of sequences are introduced as the track’s foreboding nature expands, and Jim’s use of basic 4/5 note riffs to create a compelling sound is masterful, the main theme being reminiscent of Schmoelling’s compulsive simplicity. A superb start! ‘Perilous Ground’ is an altogether stranger piece, sounding like an alien swampland and acting as a bridging piece into the next track – although at only 1:45 I felt it needed a little more development. ‘Timestream’ gallops in on a typically fast, rocky beat and again utilises a simple but very effective reed theme over a driving synth. Add to this a Pandora’s box of strange samples and synth solos and it creates a scorching track! ‘Requiem for an Immortal’ – a strange oxymoron which Jim explains by saying he had a vampire in mind – the Undead who have yet been killed to life! (He’s just too clever by half!) The track opens very darkly with breathing synths and an ominous swathe of atmospherics punctuated by a funeral drum. The scene slowly set, enter a defiant dirge which stands proudly against it’s dark counterpart bringing to mind some of TD’s darker soundtrack work as it grows in malevolence. ‘Legion of Dawn’ again starts very darkly with slow malignant percussion and a weird synth loop, soon joined by a TD style sequence. Unfortunately, to my mind, the scene is then spoiled by an unimaginative drum beat which taints the whole ethos of the piece – a great pity because there are some wonderful synth passages on show. Like Jim, you may feel it fits perfectly – suck it and see! ‘Forgotten Realms’ is a welcome breather after its hectic predecessor, and they don’t get much more malevolent than this! Resonant voices, strange ‘calls’ and noises over a darkly ambient moaning wind – scary stuff indeed! Finally, to ‘The Dreaming Lord’ which must rank as the album’s strongest track. A beautiful trickle of bells is assaulted by all forms of dark percussion. A powerful, slow sequence then introduces another mischievous theme as other instruments join in the dance conveying perfectly the slow descent into REM sleep. Jim’s use of percussion is masterful, at times using one of his trademarks – a beaten anvil, with more ‘industrial’ noises and compulsive synth ruling over a now uptempo pace. The track rounds off with a combined assault of all the Dream’s sequences before coming to an abrupt ending. I feel that with ‘Tower of Darkness’ Jim has now defined his own ‘sound’ – and no one I know is playing such an effective mixture of powerful, dark, Gothic, orchestrated synth like this. Maybe at times the album could have done with a little more production and tidier bridging work (an extra week in the studio perhaps?) however this is just nit picking. Here we have a worthy challenger to the British synth crown who is armed with originality. Dyson is going to have to leave his safe seat to pick up this gauntlet. Do yourself a favour, click into Kirkwood! (Stuart J. Harris)