Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Neraterræ - The Substance of Perception

Artist: Neraterræ
Label: Cyclic Law
Catalogue no: 138th Cycle


     1.      Shadows of Regret (featuring Northaunt)
     2.      To Reveal the Unseen (featuring Alexey Tegin from Phurpa)
     3.      Becoming the Nightmare (featuring New Risen Throne and Treha Sektori)
     4.      The Wicked Pulse of Conscience (featuring Taphephobia and Infinexhuma)
     5.      The Which Shall not be Witnessed (featuring Xerxes the Dark and Treha Sektori)
     6.      Beyond (featuring Ugasanie)
     7.      Echoing Scars (featuring Flowers for Bodysnatchers)

This is album is from Italy’s Neraterræ aka Alessio Antoni, and not only has it grabbed a good chunk of very well-respected label Cyclic Law’s real-estate for the project’s debut but also take a look at that list of collaborators – some of the finest exponents of dark ambient have gathered to Antoni’s cause and produced something rather special. This is the equivalent of someone writing their first movie script and then getting a phone call from Guillermo Del Toro saying he wants to direct it and that Industrial Light & Magic have offered to do the effects.

And what a debut – packed full of haunting, mist-laden, and deeply chthonic atmospherics, snatched out of buried time and lost places. This is at once as light as the white clouds flitting through cold alpine skies and as heavy as the weight of the accumulated aeons since creation. It is simultaneously uplifting and terrifying, bringing us close to both salvation and damnation in the same instant, feeding our fears and offering us hope. It is both fleeting and timeless.

The first few bars of track one proclaim that this is not your ordinary debut album – melancholic bell-tones hang as if suspended in air, like the ghostly shades of things best left unremembered. And yet, in spite of the power inherent in regrets these are nothing more than will-o’the-wisps, dancing brightly but inevitably proving to be insubstantial and ultimately ephemeral. Regrets only have power over us if we allow them to. Next comes ‘To Reveal the Unseen’, a piece shrouded in both distance and mystery. Profound subterranean winds and whispers vibrate through layers of mind, calling upon ancient and antediluvian powers long dormant.

‘Becoming the Nightmare’ comes from a place deeper still, where forces and twisted intelligences beyond our imagining and conception bide their time in secret hollows, waiting with infinite patience for the time when the stars, in their vast aeons of infinitesimal movements, assume the right alignments and conjunctions. Until then, the tides are against them, and their actions are restrained and constrained. There will, however, come a time when the hairless apes will learn their true place, and the sad fact that they’ve been foisting grand delusions upon themselves in their hubris.

‘The Wicked Pulse of Conscience’ rings long and plangently through the caverns of mind, the threads of guilt and worry firmly attached to every fibre of our beings, guiding us, steering us, perhaps limiting us. It hangs heavily, a sometimes suffocatingly dark velvet drape, a veritable weight that appears at times to possess sapience and intention, pulling us back from the brink. Perhaps it’s attempting to prevent us from seeing ‘That Which Shall not be Witnessed’, a moaning wind blowing through chasms and eroded valleys strewn with rocks and obstacles. We’re not the only sojourner here: something chitters and scrapes, scouring the barren ground for whatever slim pickings there are.

The following track, ‘Beyond’, drones its way into our senses, before wafting just above our heads on unseen breezes, accompanied by staccato chirpings and cawings which do nothing to reassure us. Perhaps we haven’t yet reached the exit to the valley of the previous track, but already the landscape is changing, becoming broader, and less encumbered. Chiming winds whistle down from the heights, a keening voice beckoning us forward and out, and leading us into… what?

‘Echoing Scars’ answers the question: slow breaths precede a mournful piano figure, which climbs into a clear blue sky, while strange atonalities and drones interject themselves here and there. The vista has opened up, giving us a less obscure view, bright but alien, familiar yet still incomprehensible, comforting but still defying logic. The reality here is dichotomous, but in spite of the dissonance it’s still calming and reassuring. It’s the perfect bookend to what started with ‘Shadows of Regret’ – an unshackling of burdens, and a freeing of conscience.

For a debut album it’s an exceedingly accomplished effort, expertly crafting a whole spectrum of moods, atmospheres, and aesthetics. This work possesses maturity, plus a confidence that only points to even better and more assured work from Neraterræ in the future. If this quality of vision is kept up with each subsequent release, then this project’s name will be assuredly be added to the hallowed firmament of dark ambient greats in the years to come.

Startling and wonderful.

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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