Thursday, 11 July 2019

Arcaïde - Solve & Coagula

Artist: Arcaïde
Catalogue  no: N/A


     1.      Solve (Part 1)
     2.      Solve (part 2)
     3.      Solve (Part 3)
     4.      Solve (Part 4)
     5.      Coagula (Part 1)
     6.      Coagula (Part 2)
     7.      Coagula (Part 3)
     8.      Coagula (Part 4)

The phrase ‘Solve & Coagula’ (or ‘Solve et Coagula’), for those not in the know, is a Latin phrase meaning ‘separate and join’, and is most frequently encountered in the Royal Art of Alchemy. In the context of this eight-track release, we’re talking not about the popular definition of the physical act of alchemy ie., turning lead into gold, but the spiritual process: the refining of the lead of earth-bound material man into the divinely attuned and cosmic man, with particular reference to the work of Carl Jung.

I won’t pretend to be au fait with Jung’s analysis of alchemy (although I did once read an abstruse series of lectures on the subject by his daughter many years ago), but I am a little familiar with the theoretical magical underpinnings behind the practise and I think this music has to be viewed in context. In essence, in layman’s terms as we are now we’re enmeshed in materiality, given that we are born into a materially-constituted world. In spite of that, every human has a spark of the divine contained within, and spiritual alchemy’s aim is to slough off the shell of the earthly man and become divine (or enlightened) in order to reach the Godhead. In other words, a journey with the aim of creating order out of chaos, and attaining divine knowledge to free us from ignorance. A work wherein opposites are reconciled and understood as basic necessities in the dual universe we exist within. Sounds simple, of course, but it demands a lot of work and self-sacrifice.

In terms of the work presented here, how has Arcaïde (a French-based project) translated this complex process into sound? Given my limited knowledge of the practical minutiae of alchemy, it’s fair to say that we begin in chaotic darkness: ‘Solve’ parts 1 – 4 evolve from the primum materia of noise and structural anarchy and dissolution into something resembling cohesion, although not fully so. As suggested by the unresolved and unrefined essences the work has to start with, we’re initially presented with a chaotic mélange of random cacophonic outbursts, grating high-pitched whines and scrapes, sharp metallic explosions, bass pulses, crackling static, distant knockings, and much else. The first four tracks are never allowed to coalesce into something too coherent for too long, but one does discern a gradual and slowly creeping sense of order finally asserting itself. Ultimately, Part 4 announces this with a loping bass sequence, staccato percussion and distorted vocals before breaking apart into a miasma of hissing and glitching until an equilibrium of sorts is reached – we’re not quite there yet, but much has already been accomplished.

The second set, ‘Coagula (Parts 1 – 4)’, presents an entirely different tone. The work is beginning to have its effect, and the cohesion is more apparent. Shimmering ringing tones lead us into the second stage of the process before metamorphosing into something creepier and sinister, perhaps preparing us for the real purpose of alchemy (and occultism in general): confronting ourselves with ourselves (aka the ‘dark night of the soul’). This is particularly apparent on the following track – even creepier and sparser atmospheres, brooding and oppressive, interweaved with silences that are just as heavy. The theme is expanded on Part 3, and the silent voids are squirming with all our fears combined. And then, finally, a magnificent conclusion is reached, the breaking of the bonds that tie us to an earthbound slavery: the chains break, the divine spark has been ignited, and the soul flies free.

This release is an example of how truly affecting music can be, be it melodic or, as here, unstructured but coherent. It’s even better understood when the context is known. This is what dark ambient means to me: a music that takes me on an inner journey, atmospherics that allow my imagination free rein, and sounds that metaphorically disengages me from the burden of gravity.


Psymon Marshall 2019

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