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exponentiation ezine: issue [4.0:culture]

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Maeror Tri - "Myein" (1995 ND)

Slow, vibrating key strokes piece together these extremely drony landscapes, shaped by ambient masters Maeror Tri - now hailed as cult legends within the ambient/drone genre.

A dark layering of sound begins the album and is used effeciently by improvising the sound of a guitar string that's constantly pulled and later into the music the dark layered sounds are accompanied by several extended key tones that overlap their forerunner. Like diving into an unexpected void of emptiness, the music becomes more intense, more drony, the longer it goes on.

At a certain point, strange sounds start to appear as rythmic inducers, hypnotizing the mind into a state of total esoteric mindexploration. What follows, is an openedness into soundscapes totally unknown. The monotone and persistent vibrating sound in the background becomes the basic structure, and disorted and dissonant noises become leaders, dictating where each song is going.

Almost like living inside an airdrum, these noises eventually build up into an intense tribal dance and become harmonies against beautiful melodies, similar to the music of Autechre or Beherit's later ambient works. This is a welcome experience and Maeror Tri proves its undeniable artistic brilliance when the second movement of this album begins. A calm ambient key stroke is introduced as a basic structural layer, and placed on top of it is a highly emotional and almost epic vibrating drony key stroke. It may be compared to a leaf slowly flapping in the wind, or streamlined thoughts colliding between two lonely individuals in a room of emptiness.

Maeror Tri uses the notion of singularity to enhance and provoke awe and love to what they wish to present; around these gently droning soundscapes exist nothing, and as such, "Myein" is well balanced and easily projected into the mind of he or she who wishes peace, but peace found within brainstorms of thoughts, memories and old wisdom. Certain points of these drawn-out keystrokes beckon to the listener and become enhanced, as found in the way the music is built up: harmonies range from dark and low, to relatively high - and when the key note has reached its peak - it brings forth a gentle resounding. Profound is the one and only word to use here.

After having built up a general mood of unknown epic and strange but emotional feeling, the almost fifty-minute opus begins. Hardly expected, it starts with a myriad of melancholic and deranged noises, like twisted illusions of a dream never before experienced. A slow, dark, eerie ambient texture lies beneath it, sometimes interfering with the process of compressing massive amounts of energy into a limited space (expression), other times relying completely on the roar, and from there going back to its original state. Here we find the basic technique of "Myein," in its way of letting different drony keynotes interact as a roleplay between the dark, the high, the noisy and the disturbingly clear.

Unsettling, this listening experience suddenly loses its rushing atmosphere and instead continues forward through its basic dark key notes, putting the focus on itself. Although it for a while stands on its own, it quickly becomes acquainted with overlapping synth-layers that sound like processed guitars, until the harmonies transpire into an expression of the organic and wordly: suddenly it is the all. Twisted and dissonant, these drone-driven sounds eventually imitate that of an electronic flute player beyond space and time. Maeror Tri uses this function to its advantage: it removes all outside contact with reality, and instead builds up a whole new one, only to tear it down and replace it with singularity - somethingness surrounded with nothingness.

Further into this unimaginable journey, the ambient layers suddenly stop their diverging evolution and instead become two single key drones, affecting one another by what feels like ritualistic and evergrowing knowledge of something left far behind. The music therefore becomes more reflective, more certain of a way than before there was either total chaos or total emptiness. Surprisingly, this journey is concluded by a cold and desolate key tone, opposed to the warm and gentle breeze of different harmonies experienced before.

It is not without reason that works by this trio of German dronists have become intensely sought after by virtually all serious ambient music lovers; their music is affectionate, careless, desolate, warm, epic, timeless, droning, disturbing - all compressed into a a single unit. While it in many ways is fit for the esoteric mind, and in most ways is too far out for most mainstream ambientists, "Myein" reflects the internal mechanisms of Universe; opposites fulfilling eachother by co-working and creating a relevant whole. Like no other ambient artist, Maeror Tri succeeds in pulling the listener deeper and deeper down until it becomes suffocated by its visions - only to discover a new world beyond the subtle ways of watching the surface, but never touching the internal and unexplored. As such, "Myein" is a daring journey into what the inside can create by itself as single influence.

This ethereal work stands on its own: A masterpiece. -Alexis


Robert Fripp - Exposure

Like William Blake, Robert Fripp is one of those figures in art who contribute so much they're constantly overlooked, in part because what they create is inscrutable to a wider audience. Together with Black Sabbath, Fripp invented what heavy metal would become through his abstract but dissonant symphonies and knotted song structures which like demi-operas navigated a course of story to arrive at sense. He is most famous for his work with prog-rock band King Crimson, but it is foolish to overlook his modern chamber music made on sustain-boosted guitars.

"Exposure" was a Frippian attempt to both join and comment on music of his time, as if chronicling a history of it, and while it scrambled for that difficult beachhead -- less repetitive than rock but too repetitive for classical, mixing progressive styling's and retrofitted cliché to be postmodernly both self-critical and creative of a future -- it makes great listening for those not seeking consistency. This album sounds more like a summary of learning so far, a philosophy of beauty within tortured sound and clarity within noise culminating in spiritual peace within a chaotic and lost time, more than it is meant for casual listening; it is an event. It is not the type of album one sits down to for a simple experience, but almost has to be hoodwinked into and ends up better for it: this album grows on the listener like a routine passage to work on which daily noticed is newly proliferating detail.

To the dismay of many it is avant-garde art with two capital As, quirkily restless in its desire to incorporate sounds which would later find their way into other compositional styles. Its voice compositions in particular would find counterparts on middle-period Ministry albums, as its many licks and detours would be appropriated by any of a number of rock and pop bands. Although the music is softer, comparisons to punk are valid here because like hardcore punk bands, this album takes a dim view of our society's "progress," likening it via music to extraneous noise that because of its outer shell is unrecognized as valueless, since it sounds like it might be meaningful, even if it is repetitive. Fripp takes that style of sound and explodes it outward, steering the directionless time-filler toward unsettling conclusions, like a G.G. Allin of the artrock movement showing us a mirror of our empty souls, in the depth of which something -- serpent or angel or both -- begins to stir.

The weakness of this album, like many forms of demonstrative protest music, is its tendency toward the outlandish and gesture-heavy, which interrupts listening with drama that does not find beauty in life; Fripp is more successfully when instead of pointing out the discordance, he uses it to make higher creations which incorporate beauty and darkness into clarity. Yet despite these jarring aspects, the music expands its depth as it is inspected, creating a tunnel into the mind of one of the 20th century's most incorruptible advocates of Art. Two versions of the CD are included here, the original and a modern remix including tracks dropped for contractual reasons, but this reviewer prefers the first disc for its clarity of delivery. -vijay prozak


Dead Can Dance - Serpents Egg (1988 4AD)

A trip into the mystical world of the medieval orient is the ticket offered in "The Serpents Egg" by this groundbreaking duo consisting of Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry.

Organs create an ambient undertone at the beginning of this album, while Lisa's voice provides an emotional overscoring, leaning towards the suffering, but at the same time upholding the reactionary opposite. Continuing on this journey, voices of different tonal levels masterfully work together in both homophonic and monophonic textures and manage to create an ultimately interesting piece of medieval spirit rarely found in other artists of similar stylings.

Brendan, although in many ways fond of the positive and optimistic, surges forward with a calm exclamation of the fatal individualism that splits and severs the ties that create a strong and unified people. His recognition of this in "Severance" is clear and profound, and it is not without a sprinkle of sadness that this song ends with an emotional violin as a reaction to the problem.

However, it is Lisa's performance that mostly impresses this listener - as in songs like "The writing on my father's hand", where total sorrow and hopelessness is upheld and taken to its emotional extreme - without losing its musical honesty and integrity. A background harp that leaves a small gap in its playing for an echo plays the dominant melody of the song and imaginatively seems to suggest a closed and distant room in the tower of a castle, where feelings and wishes are repressed - both physically and mentally.

At an interval no longer than the despondent feelings can soak into the heart of the observer, Brendan immediately presents a reactionary piece where the modern ignorance is replaced by tolerance and an opened mind, freed from the sins imposed by those with God but without eyes to see the beauty of life. These feelings and counter-feelings are some of the things that give this album a balanced picture and leave it more in the space of dynamic change, rather than linear thinking.

Further, it seems like the album itself is unconsciously divided into two separate chapters; one of suppression and reflection, and one of spiritual enlargement and celebration. Songs like "Mother Tongue" affirm this idea, as the album suddenly takes a different turn in which multiple layers of rhythmic drumming enter the music, sounding similar to bells of crystal ice blowing in the wind, and then seducing, mystical and monotone ambient tones wave the sounds into a blurred vision of a forest undergoing a magical change - all of this is later accompanied by the sound of a secret waterfall somewhere deep into the mouth of Mother Nature.

"The Serpent's Egg" ends with a hopeful and optimistic vision of the future, something which probably should be seen as the underlying motivation behind this album; the pieces of sorrow and pain are included in the music to strengthen the message of the problems being addressed. The sadness on the album stems from the negative forces circulating around the medieval times, but it is reconditioned into a comment upon the modern times.

What makes "The Serpent's Egg" so beautiful - apart from the well arranged musical structure and use of strings and ambience - is its profound and honest aesthetic, as well as its way of handling emotive situations, the historical past and the philosophical future. While Lisa focuses on scrutinized sorrow, pain and spiritual mystique, Brendan thereafter lifts the mood up by addressing the ignorance inflicted upon the modern soul, and instead announces a new way of living - a new life, where the past is unified by the future. - Alexis

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