UK-based Daniel Mackenzie is a rather multi-dimensional artist with experience in improvisation, concept compositions, and sound installations. Every Time Feels Like the Last Time, his first release with Eilean Records, touches upon many of his skills, while also managing to commit to specific overall aesthetic. Classical, acoustic ideas emerge from the dark electronic pool of drones and abstract melodic material with more intense moments yielding massive pillars of distortion. Clear rhythmic pulses are crafted without the use of drums making for a starkly unified overall sound. Mackenzie also re-contextualizes various sounds constantly. Slight adjustments to the piano’s reverb and echo push the instrument from the intimate, up close and personal back into the depths of darkness. As a whole the record comes together excellently, offering new and exciting material throughout.
The piano serves as a central component to the record, particularly in the first half. Opening track “From a Forgotten Room” features a pensive piano melody with anxious strings crawling in to the droney atmosphere courtesy of cavernous white noise and textural sound effects. Although the atmospheric sound effects of the record are rather stagnant, Mackenzie gives every sound the ability to interact with the main focus area. As the piano pauses, every other sound in the space holds its breath before reinforcing the next phrase. This ability is adapted into a more traditionally constructed meter on “Unser Blaur Morgen,” a track that also taps into the idea of re-contextualization. As opposed to the strings complementing piano of the first track, here the piano finds comfort in the rest of the atmosphere as raw bass styling takes a leading role with violin melodies circulating in and out of the foreground. As “Blaur Morgen” turns out to be a rather dense tune, “Coin Miniature” takes a step back, offering more intimate piano work.
“Confound II” essentially builds on the spacy nature of “Coin Miniature,” but the album begins to change tone leading into the next long-form endeavor “Abandonment II.” On each of the four tracks that precede it, Mackenzie gives a brief glimpse of intensity before quickly fading into the next track. “Blut Und Boden”—for instance—begins with distant, dramatic keys before a more stable meter is adopted, finishing off with a vicious punch of distortion. “Kimberly” thrives on longing violin melodies that slowly fade into a violent, static climate. These little clips of intensity sort of lead the listener on for something bigger, making the true peaks stand out even more. Even when intensity isn’t the main objective, Mackenzie maintains the drama in his piano lines so that now momentum is loss in the digression of volume. “Abondonment II” itself even uses a bit of this strategy. Rather than simply building up a massive wall of sound, Mackenzie seemingly sucks all of the air out of the room at the midpoint to cede attention back to the piano. When Mackenzie does finally rear his distorted guitar sound at the end of this tune, the results are breathtaking.
The rest of the record is much more ambient and perhaps a bit uneventful, but Mackenzie continues to develop his sound offering us some final thoughts. As a whole, the record has a lot to talk about. The whole listening experience taps into a human quality as the entire room breathes with each melodic phrase. Also, by keeping somewhat of a standardized backdrop throughout the record, Mackenzie is able to sustain continuity through every instrumental re-contextualization. As far as energy goes, the record constantly pushes forward without just increasing the volume. When dramatic pianos follow loud and powerful statements from other instruments, the album continues to push forward. Admittedly, in Mackenzie’s later works, I’d like to see some more intense, climactic moments, but this record is certainly a great accomplishment.