If producer Joel Putman's creepy, metallic, sci-fi-sounding rumbles and moody FM pads contain subliminal messages, everyone had better run for cover. Soundengine's Subliminal Message CD (WAV, $79.95) is full of dreary and wonderfully enchanting ambient textures and rhythm beds that are carefully deconstructed to please goths, industrial-music junkies, or anyone who likes music with an unsettling edge.
The CD consists of 262 WAV files divided into four subsections: Ambience, Rhythmic, Vox, and Miscellaneous. The Rhythmic and Ambience sections contain dark, deftly moving textures that are aggressive, grainy, and terrifically strange.
Putman synched the rhythmic batch to multiples of 20 bpm. Sounds therefore synchronize at tempos such as 100, 120, and 140 bpm, and they can be stretched easily using programs such as Steinberg's ReCycle and Sonic Foundry's Acid Pro.
Although Putman cites influences such as Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Meat Beat Manifesto, and the movie Seven, his inspiration seems to come mostly from some rather creative FM sound-design techniques. The Vox and Miscellaneous sections are relatively risqué, containing experimental effects and FM/AM synthesis tones. Whereas those sounds are certainly well made, carefully consider the right place to drop them in a track, as they definitely draw attention.
Putman explains that many samples are taken from “the mall and various retail stores, as well as old TVs and $5 radios.” But because of the producer's radical “additive resynthesis methods” and heavy effects processing, none of the original sound sources are obvious, though titles such as On Tape, On the Radio, and All Talk are perhaps attempts to divulge the sounds' true origins.
Titles for the samples are listed alphabetically in SoundApp (Mac) or in your Windows Explorer browser. However, some names are more artsy than practical. On Advertise, for instance, dark drones accompany a store clerk speaking on an intercom that has been run through a smorgasbord of effects. And Ambience features degraded samples with added delays, choruses, and just a hint of human voice.
If you like granular synthesis and occasionally jarring ambient textures, Subliminal Message is an uncommon treat.