Monday, 16 September 2019

Santolo Marotta - The Bridge of Dark Existence.

Artist: Santolo Marotta
Label: Lake Label
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Kierkegaard
     2.      Atmosphere
     3.      Atmosphere – Part II
     4.      Ghost (Interlude)
     5.      Horror
     6.      Anaphase

Dark ambient often seems to exist in the liminal zone between existence and non-existence, a twilight realm where everything is seen in a half-light of shifting shadows and blurred movements. A dimension where what is glimpsed may not be what it seems, an intersection between reality and quantum reality where the stuff of matter is fluid and liable to flow between shapes. Perhaps, then, this also applies to everyday reality: if so, then what we experience may be just a consensual hallucination, a state of existence that we’ve all somehow managed to agree upon.

The above is a roundabout way of introducing my reactions to this new(ish) album from Italian musician Santolo Marotti – and his namechecking of Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (the father of existentialist philosophy) in the title of the first track sparked off all manner of thoughts, including the notion that this could be termed existential dark ambient. Let’s just say that, whilst I have been aware of the name Kierkegaard for most of my life I couldn’t tell you anything about what his philosophical outlook is, much less understand it. What follows is based entirely on a personal philosophy of life and existence – but I could never be mistaken for a real philosopher (an ersatz philosopher of the coffee-house perhaps).

That first track ‘Kierkegaard’ essays, with sustained hollow ringing tones, a darkness that perhaps best describes the relationship that humankind often has between his existence and the outer reality, as they often come into conflict. There’s an inherent tension between what one wants/desires and what one is able to get, fortified by the idea that the acquisition of the former instantly equals happiness. In the end, it boils down to how one adapts to the reality that ultimately offsets the internal tension between the two.

‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Atmosphere – Part II’ can be regarded as a single track for the purposes of this review. In contrast to the album opener, one is instantly enveloped by lush orchestral drone sweeps that, for all the feelings of flying and soaring they evoke, also delineate a kind of melancholy, as if of dark grey clouds scooting overhead with only the occasional sunbeam poking through gaps to sweep across the landscape like searchlights. The mood is sombre and elegiac, a mournful refrain, the quiet after a deluge of rain. This is serenely beautiful in all its solemn glory.

‘Ghost (Interlude)’ is a short, flimsy, gauzy piece, an ephemeral and elusive sighting of something that may have been there, or may not have been. Its very unobtrusiveness and smoky essence escapes full materialisation, a phantom that, for all its apparent substantiality, cannot be grasped, and disappears before we’ve registered its reality. ‘Horror’ is next, and this is perhaps the point to which this album has been converging – a pulsing bass figure over which a calliope refrain plays, reminding me of old black and white horror films – some of which, especially of the likes of Vampyr (1932), Haxan (1922), Nosferatu (1922), and Faust (1926), were nightmares in themselves. It elicits unease and disquiet, a species of monochromatic nervousness that prompts anxieties about what awaits us at the end of life - a short but effective exercise in creating agitation.

‘Anaphase’ is a biological term, defined thusly by The Free Dictionary as “…the stage of mitosis and meiosis in which the chromosomes move to opposite ends of the nuclear spindle…’ (mitosis = cell division and meiosis = germ cell division). With reference to The Bridge of Dark Existence’s final track, perhaps this is a metaphor for the endlessly repeating cycles of birth, life, and death that all beings go through. Furthermore, that we are doomed to experience the same problems, the same thoughts, questions, and anxieties as our forebears had without coming any closer to solutions. This is death ambient, a cold dark wind blowing across the River Styx, a slow black stream of water winding its way through dripping sub-subterranean tunnels where light is an unknown quality and hope is barred from entry. This is our ultimate destination after all, whichever path in life we choose to take, and it is perhaps best to recognise that fact now.

A very lucid suite of compositions, inflected with veins of darkness and despair, yet simultaneously subtle in its evocation of such conditions. This is an inward journey, a road-trip of the mind to the places that we don’t want to be reminded of while living, those nethermost regions where the stars no longer shine and where shadows become real. These pieces of music possess weightiness and solidity, a hanging slab of darkness that suppresses and oppresses. Saying that, it also everything into sharp relief, a blade edged with ennui and hopelessness. As a debut album, this is a magnificent effort.

Available as a download and as a CD from the link below:
I also suggest you check out Lake Label’s other releases while you’re there.

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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