Any die hard music lover will enjoy telling you about his or her "secret treasures," the lesser known albums that seemed to come out of nowhere and captured the imagination of a few listeners who happened to stumble upon them but never caught on with a wide audience. Albums such as this are cherished pieces in a large collection but they don't come around very often. Well, allow me to share a little secret with you: SE's Epiphora is just such an album, an emotionally resonant piece of work Tympanik Audio grabbed straight out of the ether. But be forewarned that as quickly as this intriguing wonder came out of nowhere it's being limited to a pressing of 333 copies so if you want to possess its treasures you'll have to act fast.
The title suggests a symptom which results in a major overflow of tears. and the cover features a closeup on a large, strikingly designed syringe. On the surface (and on initial listens) there's certainly a cold, clinical feel to much of the music but the moods evoke an inner struggle and emotional turmoil which don't require bombast to get their point across. Restraint becomes a large part of the power evident in Sebastian Ehmke's music and it's personalized in such a way that the best title for this project is his own initials.
As you listen to the album you'll be struck by how well each piece is arranged, especially for an introductory offering. And yet this isn't actually Ehmke's proper debut. According to his bio he's made quite a few albums for close friends and acquaintances but was only recently convinced by a friend to share his sonic vision with the rest of us. And the music does come across as intensely personal even without the use of lyrics. The emotional implications are laid out like exposed veins, bleeding their life through your speakers and submersing your senses in sanguine fluidity.
After an intro with weighty atmosphere and light, scraping distortion the first proper track, "15mg," hovers blithely for nearly a minute before an unassuming rhythm saunters in and guides you through beautiful sonic scenery in a calming manner. Not quite Ambient but not overtly Industrial there is plenty of soothing character which coexists evenhandedly with mildly abrasive passages of percussion. And it's this synergy of sounds that make the music so marvelous. Nothing overpowers anything else. Everything is on equal footing and that makes it easy to submit your undivided attention. Exceptions to that rule would be the insistent middle section of "Null" and the scathing noises that dominate "Hitchhiker," along with a barely audible, breathy female voice. As the centerpiece to the record that latter track is Epiphora's high point and its most stirring moment, though it strangely gets cut off at the end leaving the listener feeling a little empty and serving as one of this releases most questionable decisions.
"I Need A Medic" possesses the most straightforward rhythm accompanied by a simple melody that evolves throughout the song quite nicely, building in a minimalist way while the beat becomes more insistent as the minutes tick by. The curiously titled "Androgenetic Bullshit" begins with tinkling piano while a hard cadence is relegated far in the backgound, threatening to burst forward and overpower the track. Yet it fades away and for the last minute is replaced by a light, broken beat working in tandem with the synth.
The most interesting balance comes from "aer-." The scraping, high-pitched noises at first seem to derail the whole song as rolling piano gets washed out and overcome. While it continues forward a building synth theme counterbalances everything surprisingly well making the entire affair less abrasive than you would otherwise have expected. It exemplifies what makes this album so alluring; each tone, every noise seems calculated for a desired effect. How it is interpreted will, of course, be entirely dependent upon the individual listener but suffice it to say that this is a work that's almost impossible to dislike.
Rounding out the hour long set are three fine remixes by Flaque, Quench and Dnn & Huron respectively. If you like your music moody but not overly simplistic with just enough thoughtful acidity to keep your mind working then SE is your kind of artist. Epiphora provides the sort of medicine that doesn't completely alleviate your anxiety but soothes you in a way that makes it seem less important. Beyond that it's the sort of secret treasure that will hold a special place in the collections of about 333 people. You should be one of those people.