Gvantsa Narim – Apotheosis Animæ

Posted: 13 May 2023 in Albums
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Cruel Nature Records – 26th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently celebrated a decade of diversity, Cruel Nature Records continue to release a broad range of non-mainstream music – and the range couldn’t be more pronounced than placing two of May’s releases side-by-side: Gvantsa Narim’s latest offering, Apotheosis Animæ exists on another sonic plane form the grating industrial noise of Omnibadger’s Famous Guitar Licks Vol. III. They’re a sort of Yin and Yang: the world definitely needs both, and I personally need both, too, and it’s testament to Steve Strode’s singular commitment to releasing music of quality regardless of style or genre that they can both find a home on the same label.

Apotheosis Animæ, we learn, takes ‘inspiration from religion, esotericism and Georgian polyphonic music’, and that ‘her latest work was written in late 2022 / early 2023 and tells the dark and cold story of winter’.

It seems very much that winter now is not like the winters of twenty or thirty years ago: instead of two feet of snow, we get seven feet of flash flooding here in the UK. And now, despite it being the middle of May, it’s impossible to predict from one hour to the next, let alone from one day to the next if it will feel more like October or February. But despite this, winter not only has timeless connotations, but also, whether it’s sub-zero or only just a bit chilly, the cold winds and long dark nights do have a profound effect on human activity and our lives as individuals. It’s not only psychological; it’s biological and metabolic, and some of this is genetically coded into us from our prehistoric existence all the way through to as recently as just before electric lighting and mains power. There’s a case that says this is where we went wrong, as a species, and for the planet, in evolving beyond lives in tune with nature.

We each have our own unique relationship with winter, and our own associations and reminiscence. While I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, presenting as low mood and low energy, my wife would invariably suffer a low ebb in health from late October through the February, often suffering back-to-back colds that would drag on for weeks, the lack of daylight dragging down her levels of vitamin D and her immune system struggling to fend off the endless barrage of bugs and viruses that thrive in the cold months, especially when being breathed around in close-packed environments like offices. I fully acknowledge, then, and actually embrace, the fact that I am coming to this album fully loaded with my own baggage which will colour my experience and interpretation. This is a healthy, a function of music, something which can exist as a vessel for us to pour our thoughts, feelings, memories, and traumas into.

The compositions ‘Apotheosis’ and ‘Animæ’ bookend the album, and as the former lifts the curtain, it’s a slow, simple piano that evokes a slowing, a darkening which paves the way for mournful strings and distant echoes of bass and percussion on ‘Sicut Mortuss’ (which I believe translates as ‘like death’ or similar) conveys that paralysing sensation which descends with the darkness; while on the woozy, disorientating ‘Amnesia’, snippets of speech drift in and out, but instead of giving a sense of human connection, as they echo into the droning hum, there is only distance and detachment. Stretching out past the tend-and-a-half-minute mark, it’s hypnotic and unsettling, a little like the point at which you realise you’ve gone a little too far into your own head and need to drag yourself back to life, if only because it’s scary in there and you’ve got to work and at least appear normal.

There are moments of grand, sweeping ambience, soft and gentle, which convey the comforting experience of watching large flakes fall, heavy and silent, settling thick and deep in a silent white blanket; there are also moments of gritty disturbance, swirling glacial winds and shards of ice. ‘Born in the Mist’ is dark and brooding, shapeless, formless, ominous, impenetrable, the howling scrapes that ebb and flow are unsettling and uncomfortable, and it’s evocative; personally, I’m reminded of slogging across mountain tops in the Lake Diastrict in dense cloud and storm-force wind, and no doubt anyone else would being different mental visuals along.

This is where instrumental, abstract music really does come into its own: listener response simply cannot be prescribed, and has to come from within, and for this reason, we will all hear and experience something different. Following on, ‘Stopwatch’ sounds like the clouds lifting and waking up from a daze to remember that you do know how to live, that sense that perhaps hibernation is over and there’s a world outside, and this applies not only to the winter which is determined by the meteorological and astronomical seasonal changes, but the winter of the soul which can chill even deeper.

It’s soft and soporific: ‘Train’ glances and glides with crisp, crystalline tones into the – sadly missed, proverbial – sunset. The fifteen-minute ‘Codex’ is a big, brooding, bruising storm building in the form of a rumbling drone that’s dark as oppressive. Crackles, bleeps and bubbles rise cautiously on the edges of this mass of dense, dark atmosphere. Over time, it throbs lower and slower, and rippling details emerge and float along on the surface – but that darkness, that threat, is always present. At some point, you find yourself lost in the drift, and a slow thumping beat emerges behind a locked loop of synthesised notes… and then it shifts again, reminding us that nothing is ever static, however much it may seem that nothing changes, however much we may yearn to remain in a moment forever.

There are some truly beautiful passages; but they’re tempered by sadness and tension, which conveys the sense of coldness, darkness, isolation, longing that the long dark nights bring – a yearning for warmth, for comfort, for hot, hearty food, the primitive craving to sit beside a roaring fire.



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