(out of 5)
What a metamorphosis Crystal Hell Pool's undergone with Domain. Previous releases like Incantation to Nothingness and Infinity Medicine offer minimal ambient music that plumbs both radiant heights and tenebrous depths. Reference points include Mick Harris's isolationist Lull project, Brian Eno's beautifully desolate On Land, and Eliane Radigue's ARP synthesizer "aum"s—sounds geared toward deepest introspection and meditation. In other words, the output of Crystal Hell Pool (Seattle musician Chris Majerus) is the polar opposite of party music. Domain won't get spun on C89.5 or anything, but compared to past releases, it seems positively ecstatic. The most obvious difference here is that the tracks pulsate and have actual beats—beats that humans may even want to dance to. In an oblique way, Domain is a disco record; in a more overt way, it's a horror-film soundtrack waiting for a perverse Italian director to create grotesque images for it. "Life in Silence" lurches like an ogre in lead boots while synths whorl disorientingly above the menacing rhythm. "Visionaire" shimmies into a foreboding 4/4 groove somewhere between Goblin and Giorgio Moroder, entering a condition that PiL coined on their 1979 single: "Death Disco." The steadfast beats of "Debris" sound like gunshots in the distance while CHP's synths arpeggiate and swell in post-midnight melodrama. "After Image" evokes a beautifully damned Chris & Cosey club anti-anthem. But tracks like "Radioactive Cop," "Disembodied Features," and "Melting Face, Melting Hands"—pitiless trawls down industrial music's darkest, loneliest alleyways—show that CHP still ain't ready to throw his arms in the air and wave 'em like he just don't care. Deep down, he's still harboring antisocial feelings—but, thankfully, they manifest themselves in chilling, gripping music.