Through A Pre-Memory is an embrace of the titans; two behemoths of the dronederground, Mika Vainio of Pan Sonic and Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O)))/Khanate/KTL/Lotus Eaters and head of the Ideologic Organ label. While screeching black metal, doom, glitch, noise and dark ambient may not be the most obvious of bedfellows, they all share an interest in exploring the trans-human, using sundry technologies to evoke images of vast, empty spaces; images of nightmarish, industrial landscapes.That’s a large part of what makes ÄÄNIPÄÄ‘s Through A Pre-Memory such a gripping listen: every tool and trick and production method comes with its own prehistory, its own loaded context, which allows these two sonic architects to build vast and interesting edifices; sprawling alien soundworlds. The album was recorded over the span of three years, at Einstürzende Neubauten‘s studio in Berlin. It marks the second time the pair have worked together, after a cover of Suicide‘s “Che” back in 2008. Here’s to hoping ÄÄNIPÄÄ is not a one-off deal, as this is truly something special. O’Malley and Vainio are both managing to do interesting things in the fields of drone, noise and industrial music, which have great potential but often resign themselves to redundancy. All of this, after more than two decades of making experimental music. You gotta give it up.
Whether its due to its heavy usage in Western soundtracks, or the nature of its tonality itself, the electric guitar seems to inherently summon images of landscape. If Dylan Carlson attempted to transport the listener to hell’s printing pressed, by way of William Blake on Earth‘s Hex: Or Printing The Infernal Method, then Through A Pre-Memory is a slog to the cave of the machine elves, where you find some skinny, antlered pagan priest, screaming humanity, with all of its infatuation, passion and obsession at the iridescent, slime-mold walls of eternity.
Eternity doesn’t care.This bizarre alien vista is created with a simple, but brilliant, combination of O’Malley’s signature guitar crawl and gigantic drum machines, which is then further augmented with colorful reverbs, synth special FX and squealing strings. The electronics give the events a sci-fi/cyberpunk narrative, while the strings add a dash of classicism, and of course, the trademark reverb make everything IMMENSE.
Through A Pre-Memory is not an easy listen; you’ve got to work for it. Every track on here is over 16 minutes long, with the album opener “Muse” coming in at 21. These long slogs are made even more unsettling by the occasional witchy screech of Alan Dubin of Khanate screaming some poetry by Russian futurist poet Anna Akhmatova, which gives a human element to the cosmic horror, which is kind of a relief, as it gives you something to latch on to, but makes it even more unsettling. The longform nature of these tracks reveals the mission of this record: this is music as witch’s cradle, a baptism of low frequencies, a stone circle to separate you from humdrum consensual reality. The overall feeling I was left with was a long walk to some sacred space, where the listener, after engaging in some exhausting ritual, is treated to some starry wisdom, and returns with the lantern, like Zarathustra.Of course, all these astral visitations aside, there is the music itself, as musicians’ business is to get down to the business of organizing sounds, to tell a story and communicate emotions. Listening to Through A Pre-Memory you are struck by the power and potential of drone music (which is an abused and often misunderstood term, as this would be drone-y, and not drone, music, which is just one note). It breaks with the tradition of tonality, the pop music strictures of predictable chord changes to produce soothing and predictable emotions, and instead creates an atmosphere, a world unto itself. In this slow-motion world, it is possible to really hear the resonances and harmonics of the instruments themselves. This is seen most admirably towards the end of “Muse,” with the radioactive shower of violins, viola, cello and bass, arranged by Eyvind Kang and performed by bassist Moriah Neils.
Its not all difficult listening (well, yeah, it is), but the band return you to earth with the final track “Stillness Watches Over Stillness/Matters Principal,” which at least sounds like something you’ve heard before, being the most Khanate-like of the four. Here, finally, and at the last moment, Stephen O’ Malley the beast is finally allowed to unleash, as all restraint is let go and Through A Pre-Memory roars out with minutes of shrieking, snarling guitar feedback.
O’Malley and Vainio are magicians, conducting rituals to tear a hole in the aether, and let vast astral dimensions shine forth in all their black light.
Very much recommended (if you can hang); and remember to take their advice: MAXIMUM VOLUME YIELDS MAXIMUM RESULTS.