Monday 26 August 2019

Misantronics - Initium.

Album: Initium
Artist: Misantronics
Label: Sombre Soniks
Catalogue no: SomSon 136

     1.      Orlus
     2.      Minerva
     3.      Conor
     4.      Imber
     5.      Veteris-Nova
     6.      Hexa
     7.      Atlas (Stratmix)

Misantronics is one of those acts I forever appear to miss but Sombre Soniks have sent me their latest release in order for me to correct that oversight. Looking at the blurb accompanying the launch of this, their sixth for this label, I gather that this is a departure from their usual fare (which is more along the lines of EDM), and that they have effectively gone back to their ambient roots. From a personal viewpoint, if this is the compositional quality typical of that earlier output then I am annoyed that I missed out on so much good material.

Even the title of this album suggests a return, a reacquaintance with an earlier mode of being and operation. Indeed ‘Orlus’, according to the artist, was the accidental starting point for the recording of Initium when, during a session, the beats disappeared and what emerged was something more primal, a form that came from somewhere deeper. The track itself is a series of deep regular breaths, inhaling and exhaling, a fecund wind upon which a shimmering mirage floats, a glowing phantasm of dream palaces and minarets, a swirling ride on thermals above the towers and limpid pleasure pools of ancient architecture. ‘Minerva’, which follows on from this, lingers gauzily over a primal rhythm, punctuated by crashing percussion, redolent of some exotic ritual conducted in the hallowed halls of temples that have now crumbled into dust.

‘Conor’ begins with the far-off strains of strings, climbing and undulating, heading out of a mist-bound landscape (perhaps the forested one depicted on the cover) and into a pale azure sky. Once it gets there it floats serenely, lazily gyrating and tumbling to the accompaniment of hollow percussive drums and quiet washes of drones. This is a lofty realm, one where the light always shines and the blue is ever present. It’s a place that’s rarely glimpsed, and even more rarely attained. Here edges are well-defined with a glittering clarity, a place where stain and taint have been banished.

‘Imber’ begins with a passage of deep, low growls reverberating under a persistent pulsing, emerging from a deeply subterranean chasm far below our feet, an insufflation of geysering air spouting hotly from fissures and cracks in the earth’s crusty skin. However, that’s a mere introductory refrain for ‘Veteris-Nova’, a ritual concoction of exhalations and rhythms, perhaps a placatory act to appease whatever lurks in the seismic engine rooms deep underground, a plea to spare those living on the surface. The airs suppurating from the earth’s wounds howl and wail, but their wrath calms and their energies are spent for a while, until the cycle is repeated.

‘Hexa’ takes us even deeper, to the hellish, howling magmatic regions below the earth’s crust, a roiling, superheated pool of lava constantly circulating and looking for the merest fissure to escape through. It’s a deadly place, unsuited to anything remotely human, and inimical to most forms of life. It’s a vital and active component of our planet, but its continued operation and benefit is predicated on it remaining underground: just imagine if the Yellowstone Supervolcano decided to erupt suddenly – the devastation would be incalculable.

The album ends on a ghostly note, a vast wind barrelling through a barren, deserted, and denuded landscape, a dusty swath of nothing stretching in all directions, towards horizons that remain obscured. The sun peeks palely and only occasionally through rare breaks in the cloud layer, which is itself a tumult of sickly yellow and green convulsions. Ultimately, it’s an empty place: all life, supposing that there was any to begin with, has left and escaped to more welcoming vistas. Here meteorology and nature have been left to their own devices, to play around as they will.

Initium is a wide-ranging album, a broad canvas depicting and portraying deeply-rooted dispositions and atmospheres, using a whole spectrum of colours and hues to capture the minutiae. Whilst in many respects much of the music on here is about capturing moments and specifics, there’s also a fuzziness and blurring of outlines and shapes, almost as if it’s encouraging the imagination to fill in the details. It’s a welcome approach for the kind of mind that I have – music is extremely personal to me, especially the abstract species, as it allows images and words to tumble out without prompt or stimulation.

Whilst I cannot gainsay the rest of Misantronics’ oeuvre and output, Initium has at least inspired me to delve further into their back catalogue. The mostly ‘impressionist’ approach to sound painting here conjured up responses that I connected with only too readily – a sign that Misantronics must be doing something right.

Available as a digital download from here:

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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