“A dark, experimental and pervasive atmospheric music, like a seductive nightmare”
1 The Beginning 5:14
2 The City 8:00
3 The Gaze 4:48
4 The Rise 3:30
5 The Smile 8:12
6 The Dance 13:44
7 The Promise 5:50
8 The Gift 7:57
9 The Castle 6:16
10 The Appearing 5:52
11 The Dream 6:00
12 The End 4:46
(CD/DDL 80:09) (V.F.)
Do you know Theodor Mannborg's harmonium? Commonly called Mannborg's harmonium, this old reed organ is the cornerstone of this dark ambient music album from ØjeRum. Paw Grabowski is the Danish musician behind this artistic project that lands in Cyclic Law's stable, the same one that made us discover DEN SORTE DØD, the time of an album, REVERSED CATHEDRAL. This musician with a neo-romantic dimension likes to create some textures of dense dark music at the edge of anguish and has already made more than 40 albums and/or album-downloads since 2007. But he is especially known in the artistic world for his collage technique on medieval portraits, classical sculptures like ancient landscapes or gothic architectures. You can get a good idea of his work by looking at the six panels that adorn the cover of the vinyl edition of this album, which will be released on October 14. It's around the possibilities of the Mannborg harmonium that Paw Grabowski has composed the main lines of his new album. No synth, no sequencer. He makes a very audacious use of this old wind instrument, which sounds at times like a mellotron, by multiplying layers, sometimes oratorical, which stick together, roll and wrap us in long spectral choreographies without rhythm but not without emotion. The result is both puzzling and fascinating. The imprecise and changing tone of this large harmonium is without a doubt the greatest characteristic of REVERSED CATHEDRAL. It should be noted that the instrument in question is confined to one of the rooms of an old house in the Danish countryside. A room largely unused and heated only for special occasions. The harmonium has been altered by humidity, slowly deteriorating and giving it a very unique sound and character. This immersive and unusual auditory experience is presented by the French label Cyclic Law. And if dark, experimental and pervasive atmospheric music like a seductive nightmare appeals to you, I recommend the artists of this label. Starting with this intriguing work that is REVERSED CATHEDRAL.
The Beginning enters in our ears with a concerto of weeping in a sad and austere setting. The harmonium's laments have a fascinating vibratory and grainy texture. They are juxtaposed with wails that are cut into short minimalist breaths, creating a duel of layers and pads of which the contrasting hues are yet intimately related. The artist adds sound effects. Creaks of an old house that lives and works, immersing the listener in this room where the sound illusions are spells that come from the multiple layers of this Baroque organ. The structures and musical texture of this first track carry over to the rest of REVERSED CATHEDRAL's 11 other tracks. With a few nuances near. Like in The City, which has more translucent waves. They float in front of a big cloud of buzzes. They glide and twirl slowly with fluctuations in tones and harmonies, adding a high level of emotional intensity. The winged shadows of The Gaze are more seraphic, with a sibylline feel that keeps us hovering with slow orchestrations in 3 tones. A very good track that is more melodic. In a context of very dark ambient music, The Rise rises with a big cloud of drones. Again here, ØjeRum adds a series of faint, more diaphanous moans in this music that progresses with a high level of intensity. The Smile is one of the most beautiful tracks on this album. It features a particular chant that covers these oblong mortal caresses with more anaesthetizing layers of tenderness. Under these resonant shadows, the song is equal to a lyrical lament with fluctuations filled with a dull sorrow full of contradictory emotions. The various creaks of the walls and floors add an essence of psybient to the track.
The longest track on REVERSED CATHEDRAL, The Dance is an aquatic ballet performed out of the water. The movement is very slow and highlights the great sonic diversity of Mannborg's harmonium, except that Paw Grabowski adds textures that crunch and squeak. The more the track progresses, the more he isolates these tones that sound strangely like the ectoplasmic song of whales that have given a last death rattle. We are very close to the frightful darkness here. The Promise is in the same register of more opalescent tones. Its approach is slower, and the winds buzzing through its setting are giving to it a musical feel to bring the ghosts out of the walls. The echo effects of the noises push us out of this old country house. Clearly more intense, The Appearing plays on the same stage. Another little gem of ambient music, The Gift floats with layers of absolute tenderness and a strong nostalgia in the whispers that we catch ourselves humming too. A very endearing title at the emotional level. Music of very effective dark atmospheres, The Castle shows its appetite to make us visit the labyrinths of a haunted castle. The emotion that comes out of the ectoplasmic harmonies is something to be heard. I had some shivers so much it is at the same time beautiful and disturbing! The Dream is a dark and intense track where the harmonium sounds like the mellotron of Tangerine Dream. The same goes for The End, which on the other hand has a more chthonian than gothic appearance.
The sound characteristic of this old harmonium gives all the legitimacy to REVERSED CATHEDRAL to please the aficionados of dark ambient, and is propitious to listen while watching a movie of fear whose action takes place between the walls and the labyrinthine corridors of a gigantic castle in Transylvania. Like its artist who puts collages on canvases and/or pictures, ØjeRum makes a skilful assembly of the different tones, fluctuations and intonations of this Mannborg harmonium in order to create a mosaic of diversified ambiences with the colors of a soft melancholy of the black and white years.
Sylvain Lupari (October 14th, 2022) ****¼*
Available at Cyclic Law Bandcamp
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