Sunday, 4 August 2019

Onasander - Ancestry Reworked EP

Album: Ancestry Reworked EP
Artist:  Onasander (original)/Various (reworkings)
Label: Tipi Token
Catalogue no: TIPI005


     1.      Orans (reworked by Ajna)
     2.      Arcadius (reworked by Klangbunn)
     3.      Trier (reworked by Xerxes the Dark)
     4.      Milvian Bridge (reworked by Hilyard)

This release (just like one of my previous reviews did) reminded me forcefully just how easy I have it today compared to how things were pre-internet when I ran a print ‘zine. This was originally released in 2016 by Onasander (Maurizio Landini – and there’s that Italian connection again [see my previous review]) and now comes this EP of reworkings. If this had been sent to me back in the eighties I would have had a mighty fine time attempting to track down the original in order to compare the two treatments, and probably would have had to review the newer release on its own merits. Thanks to the advent of the web, in particular the SoundCloud website, I can now make the comparison and it took me less than a couple of minutes to accomplish instead of weeks or even months.

The original interpretations are lean, cold, and distant, as if heard through a thick fog blanketing some ice-bound ghostly dream-region. The world is still, and any movement is so infinitesimal that it may as well be non-existent. And, more to the point, what hides behind those banks of obscuring fogs that swirl so clingingly close around one’s body? Are those exhalations merely the wind, or the breath of some species of creature not yet discovered by man? Are they friendly or hostile?

Each of these reworkings retains the spirit of the originals, taking aspects of the recordings and reshaping, redefining, and recoding them. Ajna’s (Chris F) rearrangement of ‘Orans’ is, if anything, even more isolationist ambient than Onasander’s, turning deeper and deeper into the inner self as it calls out to us to contemplate the deeper mysteries. Klangbunn’s (Marius Sortland Mykelbust) ‘Arcadius’ is a much more ritualistic affair, stripping back the resonance of the original and sending them into the background, then introducing rattles and whisperings into the foreground as if to invoke praeternatural entities into existence.

‘Trier’, in Onasander’s version, is a breathy cycle of inhalation and exhalation, like the breath of the Cosmos. On the other hand, Tehran-based Xerxes the Dark (Mohamadreza Govahi) scales it down the register immensely, metamorphosing it into a malignant and brooding leviathan, visible black winds and streamers emanating darkly from its gargantuan bulk. Onasander’s ‘Milvian Bridge’ begins with running water and then slides into hanging, shimmering bell-like tones and mid-range drones, sounding like some supernatural annunciation of victory. The Milvian Bridge itself is a thing of mythic foundation, as this is where Constantine the Great (who went on to found Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire) fought and won a great battle after a vision of a cross in the sky, a vision which was to have repercussions for the dominance of Christianity in later centuries. Hilyard’s (Bryan Hilyard) offering is darker and glowering, less about light and victory, and perhaps more about contemplating the heavy cost of pursuing what one believes to be a just cause. Remember though that this is just my interpretation and, having read a great deal about the Byzantine Empire from its founding to its ultimate demise, Hilyard’s exegesis resonates with that.

Ultimately though, I can only say that both releases are wonderful, showing that, if nothing else, reworking another artist’s primum materia can drastically change the original’s atmosphere and dynamics, transmuting it not necessarily into something better but different. The four artists here have done just that – the original compositions remain standing proud, while the reworkings stand alongside them with equal validity. In this case, this has been an immensely fruitful exercise.

Ancestry Reworked will be available from August 30th from the following link:

Psymon Marshall 2019

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