Monnik – Bedevaart

by Freq | 2018-03-01T12:54:28+00:000000002831201803 12:54

Consouling Sounds

Monnik - BedevaartThere is very little to give the game away on the sleeve to Monnik‘s second album Bedevaart. Besides the title, artist and three track names, there is no more to go on. A shady image of what looks like stone tomb in a jungle seems as tight-lipped as the sleeve, so I delve in not knowing what to expect.

Side one of the LP is taken up with “Zielerust”, and with the opening swell of a gentle rushing against my ears, I am transported to a place where time seems to slow as the cymbals ebb and flow and metallic rustles and scrapes are faintly discernible in the background. The feeling of a slow-motion panorama unfolding before me takes effect. If you stand in one place in the wilds of somewhere alien to you and turn slowly through 360 degrees among these subtly immersive sounds; the barest wisp of synth, the addictive cymbal wash draw us down.

The way the track ebbs and flows appeals to our love of the sea and the cymbal’s sibilant hiss acts like the massing of clouds on the horizon. As this all starts to recede, two synth lines, one simple and insistent with a gathering of momentum, the other a series of notes more like sunlight breaking through appear and push the solitude of earlier to one side. The feeling here changes to something a little more sinister as wind-borne, whirling creatures wailing in the ether draw us with their harmonium drone back into the depths of the forest. As the track drops away we are left with some extraordinary sounding keyboard tones that are in parts jarring and in parts soothing, somewhere between the harsh monotony of Martin Rev and the warm sepulchral tones of a chapel organ. The time that passes here is like a heartbeat, but is actually about twenty minutes and incredibly evocative.

Side two introduces guitar, all croony and reverby alongside a depth-charge bass rich with resonance. Although “Berouw” moves slowly, there is less space here. Sounds lurk in the background and the synth lines sit at odds to one another over the oil-black bass. This is not quite at an Earth-like tempo and there is too much mischief here for a comparison — in fact, the way the soundscape swells is like watching a distant sandstorm; it doesn’t affect your immediate comfort, but you know that it is on its way with things happening at a kind of remove. You can possibly make out a train in the distance and as that moves away it seems to take the storm with it, leaving you with just the drone.

“Berouw” turns into a kind of cold-wave mantra: there are disembodied ghosts of vocals hovering over the shoulder of a gorgeously gentle guitar line, mournful and reflective, sitting under a layer of gossamer. The finale is epic and yearning, crying keyboard drones seeming to soundtrack the slow-motion image of someone falling into a crevasse, offering a helpless look as they stare towards you on the rim, frozen and immobile.

The album ends with a blissful piano piece that is hopeful and stirring, a shimmering violin keeping it company as it gently woos us. It is a good place to end, and we are shown all the musical and atmospheric possibilities that Monnik has to offer. Apparently Monnik is the word for monk in Flemish, I assume, as Thibaud Meiresone-Keppens hails from Belgium and is the perfect name as he has chosen to explore the boundaries of spiritual isolation and ascetic meditation in electronic form. This is a fantastic example, but although he is looking to strip things down and search for some sort of spiritual purity, there is enough warmth and intrigue to nourish our imaginations as well as our souls.

-Mr Olivetti-

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