36 – Black Soma (3Six Recordings, 2017)

Black Soma

Light and dark, the oldest juxtaposition in existence. The something vs. the nothing, the good vs. the bad. Preceding each piece here is a counterpoint, a piece of subterfuge which casts a glimmer of melancholy and doubt into its matrix: black. Notions of lightness and purity, places of promise and hope, become tainted with a darkling presence that looks to check balances. It’s a bitter reality, and a familiar tale of bittersweetness across 36’s catalogue.

Only “Black Halcyon” here is untarnished, am idyllic corner of space and time locked so tightly in memory that not even the merest hint or suggestion of depreciation can be detected infiltrating its seeking tendrils of rich light that billow and wave with the softest of touches. It falls in direct opposition to its successor “Black Sun”, whose seemingly irrepressible core suddenly feels heavy and aged, a melancholy setting in that reflects the heinously long lifespan of our home star and yet recognises its inevitable demise. Static hisses like a leaking balloon, each eruptive synth prominence breaking free from its surface dispersing its finite energy to the void.

Beneath its timeless broiling lies a similarly evocative and prehistoric scene in “Black Shore”, gentle waves creeping and sloshing against the Earth as they have since time immemorial. We are drawn to these things as humans, big and endless scenes and sights like the sea and sun and stars; we know them of old, it’s in our blood, our genetic memory. There is an allure to them, knowing that our ancestors were connected to these things as we are now, a respect to be found for them in resisting the scourge of time which has claimed thousands of human generations and beyond.

Our transience and transcendence are suggested in opener (and title track) “Black Soma”, its perspective up for debate. Does it, in its growing drones and enveloping, spectral vocal coos become alive, a consciousness swirling into existence like some life-essence being poured into a human mold? Or is it a release, an ejection of a dying being’s psyche into the great beyond, breaking free of its corporeal constraints? “I release you”, a ghostly voice seems to whisper at its conclusion, a relieved sigh accompanying it.

If it is the former then there is only a temporary solution to mitigate the Universe’s cruelnesses in life and that is the retreat into one’s own mind every night. “Black Sleep” is hardly a restful affair, but it is a departure from reality; what should be an opportunity for escapism, however, still clings to lingering feelings of despair like smoke caught in the folds of our brain. It feels hollow, drones scratching themselves out in little crystalline movements, all echoic and small streaming through the mind’s chasmic courses.

Elsewhere life’s wheels roll on in heady noir currents ala “Black Sustain”, shimmering piano points punctuating the thick drone smears like cat’s eyes on the road of our existence; flares illuminating our path, guiding lights that keep us safe and steady through the darkest hours and toughest conditions.

As limitless as many of these pieces set themselves out to be, their runtime is only as brief and impermanent as the rest of the Universe. In recognising the sweetness and complexity of that which surrounds us, it’s healthy to also take stock and appreciate its immateriality, its brevity in the face of time. Be humbled by it, not saddened or discouraged, and work like the music here does to make an impact on the world using the time it’s gifted.