Jana Irmert – Cusp

Posted: 3 January 2020 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Fabrique Records FAB073 – 17th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

As the press text summarises, ‘Cusp is a collection of compositions taken from the soundtrack for the film STRESS by Florian Baron. The feature-length documentary gives voice to five young veterans, their experiences and trauma’. It was never going to be light or upbeat, and immediately, the sounds emanating from the speakers are unsettling, disturbing: blasts and reverberating crashes echo all around over slow, elongated drones, and ‘It’s Happening’ washes into the slow ebb and flow surges of synth that form ‘Them or Me’.

It may be good to talk, but those of us who haven’t been there simply cannot relate, cannot compute or comprehend the meaning, the pain, the anguish. It’s a world beyond and it would be a mistake and an insult to pretend otherwise. Anything, from sympathy to empathy feels like an underestimation and an undersale, a devaluement. Perhaps it’s an act of solipsism: the suffering in the mind of another is unknowable. This renders the territory Cusp and the film it soundtracks difficult on a number of levels.

Trauma is by no means entertainment, and while I haven’t seen the film, Irmirt’s handling is impressive in its subtlety, and it’s understandable why she was awarded the German Documentary Film Music Award in 2019. The jury remarked how in her soundtrack, she ‘dissolves the boundaries between sound design and musical composition in a virtuoso and at the same time self-evident way, thus creating a sound cosmos that, through uncompromising reduction, generates brutal knowledge.’

The best soundtracks are always understated, and compliment, rather than dominate the visuals they accompany, and Cusp, which takes fragments of the soundtrack as a whole – with eight tracks, half of which are only around the two-minute mark, this is a distillation of a broader experience, and it works well.

It is dark, unsettling, but nothing is overdone. And that’s why it works.

AA

Jana Irmirt - Cusp

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