Sunday, 11 August 2019

ANIHILA - Silent Annihilation.

Album: Silent Annihilation
Label: Pretty Dead Girl Records
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      War with One (Silent Assassination of Adam)
     2.      Dividing Evil
     3.      Eusebes
     4.      The Annular Arch
     5.      Locus Meropis
     6.      Ascending Node
     7.      Dark Star
     8.      Another Cold Night Alone

ANIHILA may be an unfamiliar name, but the artist behind it should be known to quite a few out there: Duncan Ritchie, better known as Flowers for Bodysnatchers and The Rosenshoul. It’s described as dark space ambient, which it undeniably is, but it’s also much more than that: I would be inclined instead to call it dark matter ambient. Light is noticeable by its absence: the only thing which rules here is dense gravity. It still possesses substance, and if we had some way of penetrating and recording such distortions of time and space, this is what we might hear.

Dark matter: an invisible, highly diffuse yet incomprehensibly powerful paradox that accounts for a large percentage of the matter keeping our universe from flying apart. We cannot see it, only infer it from a careful study of the gravitational interactions between what we can see. ANIHILA manages to encapsulate this utterly baffling conundrum with a set of deeply occulted compositions (occult in the astronomical sense here, not the mystical) that are so gravitationally dense that anything within is only revealed by penetrating physically into their mysteries.

This is the equivalent of walking in to a dark cave at night without any means of illumination. We see nothing, but our sense of hearing becomes heightened and picks up all manner of strange noises. Then imagination takes over – creating phantasms and nightmares to explain their sources. Silent Annihilation begins quietly enough with ‘War with One (Silent Assassination of Adam)’, a vast space filled with winds and whispers, flowing in and out in a rhythm that is inhuman, as if we’re hearing a gargantuan lung breathing in and out in an endless cycle. Another example is ‘Locus Meropis’, which begins with a continuously roiling wave of crackling and sparking energies, leading to ghostly resonances and whistlings echoing and rolling in an unbounded void. Forces and processes beyond our understanding clash and collide, fuelling inconceivable amounts of power through unseen conduits. This compositional formula is highly successful – creating as it does a tension between what we actually see and what is observed through other, more objective means.

There were times when this album made me shiver – to quote a meme from a very popular sci-fi tv show, “It’s bigger inside than on the outside”. I don’t think saying that is stretching things too far – on the surface each piece is quite a closed affair, yet as you dive deeper into their mesmerising sonic qualities one detects subtleties and nuances that are often felt rather than heard, opening out one’s reactions. Rumbles and drones, quietly expressive of immensities, immeasurable flows and streams of powers whose magnitudes we’re incapable of envisioning, and vast cavernous enormities that defy sense, underscore the compositional strength of the pieces. I would even go so far as to categorise this as a ‘sensitive’ album, but only in terms of how ANIHILA have alchemised the prodigious nature of the hidden mechanisms that allow reality on a human-comprehensible scale to function and turned them into expressions allowing us glimpses into unimaginable enigmas.

Silent Annihilation is a tour de force of understatement, but therein lies this production’s appeal. It sweeps us on a tour of universal structures unbounded by any constraints that we understand, and shows us that in spite of our best efforts there are puzzles we will perhaps never be able to solve satisfactorily. All this is done without grandiose flourishes, just careful and considered attention to detail, creative use and manipulation of appropriate atmospherics, and a mature approach to understanding how sounds work. Because of that the impact is quite awe-inspiring, as well as humbling in some measure, just like the moment one stands outside on a clear night, away from any source of light pollution, and looks up to see the stars in all their unreachable glory. That simple act brings things into perspective.

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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