Friday, August 6, 2010

Brain - Katabasis : experimental ambient, contemporary classical music,

Reviewed by Gird_09

Katabasis is a term used in several different contexts, but literally describes a journey from the inland to the coast. Allegorically it has been used as a term for descending into the underworld, such as Orpheus' journey to retrieve his lost Eurydice from Hades, or other similar voyages. For this reason it's also a term we sometimes find in modern psychology, where it is used for a type of young male depression. Typically this form of depression is a result of the lack of father figures and rites of passage, and is related to a lack of male identity forming institutions.

Any of these two interprations help establish a context for the album, as it is both cthonian and post modern – both in terms of sound sources and in terms of presenting a dispersed universe to the listener.

The style of music is experimental ambient, with nods to early electronic music, and in many ways I have similar experience I get from listening to the electronic works of Arne Nordheim or Toru Takemitsu. Both of these are composers for whom I have the utmost respect and appreciation. The material is subtle and treated with textures to give depth and feeling of space, rather than to distort the material. It is however infinitly more soothing than either of those composers, and lacks the violent disruptions sometimes associated with the two. In terms of source material and treatment though the similarities are striking. Katabasis is certainly an album I wouldn't recommend for just anyone. It can be quite unsettling and demanding, and probably doesn't lend itself much to casual listening. If you're looking for introspective and meditative music to calm down to, this record would certainly be an excellent option.

The tracks are mostly made up of drones, based on manipulated recordings, slowly creeping towards some distant point. They're not dying to go anywhere but rather lingers in a texturized landscape of minute sounds and open space. It's like an ocean of sound in slow motion. I find myself thinking of long stretches of frost covered plains next to a lonely freight train somewhere on the Taiga.

I must say I am pleasently surprised by the music, because the interval between hearing new recordings of this type is rather long. Even more so considering that this is a free download. Normally this is the sort of music one doesn't get to hear at all, and if one does it is courtesy of some small and obscure record lable and its highly limited and undistributed print. Big kudos to Brain for making his music available in this way.

I wish I knew more about the artist and recording though. Not that it really matters. The music stands well enough on its own two legs.

1 Neither here nor there
2 Apocalypso
3 Railway to Oblivion
4 Seraphic Descent
5 Katabasis
6 Omphaloskepsis
7 Caress of steel wool
8 At the prick of a finger
9 All of nothing

USA, Nihil Est, File Download, 2009

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