Label: Sombre Soniks
Catalogue no: SomSon137
1. The Augurist
2. I Dreamed of Frogs and Gravel
3. The Three Remains
One thing I’ve learned is that P23’s Sombre Soniks label has a habit of releasing offbeat and intriguing music, usually of a deeply occult, mystical, and shamanic nature. This latest example, a three-track album from Australian project Grist is no exception, and furthermore it only underscores my belief that Sombre Soniks is something of an underrated entity. So far I’ve been impressed by the sheer variety and quality of their output, and this album definitely ticks all the right boxes if you’re looking for some shamanic/ritual ambient/noise, or even just some unconstrained experimentation.
Grist’s philosophy, especially on this example, is quite simple and straightforward: creation through an absence of intent and direction – in other words, let’s just press play and see what happens. The music is allowed to initiate its own conversations and to choose its own themes, with the musician being the interlocutor and interpreter. Ideas, concepts, and perceptions are picked up and discarded, or flow over and through each other, adding subtle hues and colours available to the artist’s palette with which to paint the ever-unfolding vistas.
Skirling pipes wail a mind-cleansing welcome on ‘The Augurist’, a swirling, whirling maelstrom of howling, keening currents that seek to pick you up and carry you off to the stratospheric heights. Once up above the clouds, those currents are joined by counter-currents interweaving between, over, under, and through the main stream, emphasising, underlining, counterpointing, accentuating, and supporting. The view from up here is spectacular: the whole panoply of creation is laid out beneath you, an almost endless sea of greens, browns, and stone greys. If nothing else, the flight amongst the wispy clouds reminds you that creation is profound and fecund, and that we are but an insignificant part of that neverending process.
‘I Dreamed of Frogs and Gravel’ gallops in on a hypnotic tribal rhythm, and riding upon its back is a brightly ringing, shimmering bell-like loop, hooking you in instantly and towing you along with it on a psychedelic fantasy of new shapes, colours, and landscapes, continually metamorphosing in an unbridled act of creation and evolution. The one emotion which this track provoked was joy; here is the definition of an overflowing of potentialities and possibilities, each iteration rushing into existence before it, too, is subsumed by a further outgrowth. These are thoughts made manifest, moulded by imagination alone. But, like all things subject to the rules of evolution, it too changes, assuming moods according to its own philosophy and needs. There are times of explosive metamorphoses followed by times of quiescence and inactivity. However, when it quietens down it doesn’t mean that the process has ceased: just because a bear hibernates it doesn’t mean that it’s died – it’s merely waiting for the right moment to reawaken. This, I imagine, is what it feels to be creator, godhead, and deity.
‘The Three Remains’ is a completely different beast, opening with a deadly mechanical contraption emitting gouts of flame and carcinogenesis. Poisonous exhalations of industrial rasping, growling and grunting, spouting sparks and molten metal with a grim, dirty iron foundry aesthetic, a claustrophobic manufactory suffocating in black smoke. This is nothing less than a limitless nightmare of circular saws, flamethrowers, and sandblasters, flensing skin in an orgy of destruction and annihilation. It’s a raw exposition of extinction and extermination, a hymnal to unchecked chaos and anarchy. It feels unhealthy, diseased, and tainted, a carrion-bearer of plague and infestation. Then, like the previous track, it changes: even in the midst of devastation and ruin, life persists. Tiny things scratch and scramble against a gentle breath providing its own rhythm, a reminder that a way will always be found to re-emerge. And once it gains a foothold then its presence increases until it becomes a new tide, washing away the filth of the old and failed.
What can I say? What we have here is a suite of mood pieces, ranging from the exhilarating to the devastating. Like I noted above, the tracks were allowed to progress in their own way, permitted to unfold as they were wont to do, organically and naturally. Music speaks, but it does so depending on the intentions of the artist or, in this case, of the music itself. This is proof that music has a will and life of its own, and that it sometimes refuses to be constrained, or follow the rules. Judging by the results issued here, Grist understands what his music wants to tell him, and he trusts it enough to let it speak through its own voice. For me, this is another winner from Sombre Soniks.
Available as a download from here:
Psymon Marshall 2019.
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