Chris Wirsig is an LA based musician that makes up half of the electro noire duo no:carrier, who released their cover EP “Ghosts of the West Coast” last year (which you can read about here). Wirsig, who has been producing music for over 15 years, also composes for games and film and is also the founder of German record label NovaTune. Earlier this month, Wirsig released a new solo effort entitled “The 13 Crystal Skulls”. The instrumental album is made up of 13 ambient songs inspired by the 13 quartz skulls that are thought to be pre-Columbian Mesoamerican artifacts. The album was performed and produced by Wirsig himself and was released on May 13th.

The opening track is the overture and it’s incredibly dark and brooding. Ambient noises fill up most of the sound with playing chords that become more and more prominent as the tune continues. The whole thing has a sort of twisted sound to it, feeling like it belongs in the soundtrack for a horror film.

“Carved Legend” is probably one of the standout moments on the album. At this point, most of the more earthy sounds have been replaced with electronic sounds like pounding kick drums and jagged synth sounds. The whole thing is wrapped together in a way that sounds kind of uneasy, as if it were to fall apart at any moment without notice, making for a really cool song. The next tune, “Watching Eyes”, continues this with a gradual build up that culminates in a really satisfying release in the second half of the song.

There are tracks like “The Cave”, “The Shaman’s Lore” and that have good ideas in them, but they lack the length or variety that would have them stand out as solid tracks.

The ninth number, “On The Hills” features lofi synth sounds that are reminiscent of the soundtracks old Nintendo games like The Legend of Zelda, though Wirsig does well to mix this retro sound with modern sensibilities. While all the songs on this album possess cinematic qualities, this is one of the tunes that really shines in that regard.

The last song on the album is “The Lost Artifact”, and it once again brings back that uneasy, almost nauseous sound. Once again, the whole thing has a very mysterious feel to it, with most of the instrumentation being played on the synthesizer, though there is a healthy dose of piano thrown in too.

Clocking in at about 50 minutes, there’s a lot of music to get through on this album. Wirsig has done a good job of crafting dramatic instrumental music but I feel a lot of the time it doesn’t contain enough variety or movement to function well as a standalone piece of work. If this music was intended to be the soundtrack to a film or a game I think it could have worked really well, but as it stands it’s at an awkward mid-point between being something ambient and something that grabs your attention.

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