r beny – Natural Fiction (2020)

How do our brains separate out what is real, from what is false? When we dream, the world inside our head isĀ the world, as strange and as incomprehensible as it might seem when we awaken from it. And yet it is a fiction, an internal construct imagined by a part of us that is beyond the understandable.

In our conscious, waking life, are we experiencing a similar fiction? Life is filled with the inexplicable: the glimpses of things we see at the edge of our vision, gone before we can react; the sounds we hear while alone in the house; the feeling of otherness we experience in certain spaces: are these real? Where does our imagination end and reality begin, can we trust the veracity of our senses in true-space? Is our perception of the world around us an honest reflection, or just the most sensible construct?

Living seems to be a constant exploration of these thoughts, of testing the truth of our experiences and scrutinising our feelings. “Mamiya”‘s namesake comes from a camera company, a tool we have used for 200 years in an attempt to document and understand the world, and attempt to filter some sense of place through. Crooning strings eke out atmosphere here, transplanting worlds and moments in a hope of making them permanent for further scrutiny, but never truly capturing “it” in its entirety.

These places we try to record are filled with something untouchable, ethereal, past presences in the present. Opener “Alone In The Pavilion” evokes spectral occupancy; solitary at first with nothing but dusty piano strokes tumbling through the dark tape static, some imprint of life comes through. Drones float through the veil, coalescing in the air about us as we become joined by the dead and the forgotten, or at least our notion of them.

Further through, “The Romantic Image of Ruins” explores this notion further in more explicitly dark passages. The music, in particular the piano, seems abandoned and far off, shrouded in a sense of loss and absence. It loops gently, turning over stones and peering through the overgrowth, trying to bring back some notion of what was lost and see what we’ve never known. From them, we can hope to rebuild a life that has been lost to us.

These constructed narratives aren’t like our dreams though, they’re based on our more grounded reality. “Shimmering and Obvious” makes great pains to be exacting and evoke specificity. It moves from soft and majestic drone passages, mirages of distant and far-away realms, to plucked chords and delicate stringed pickings that sparkle in this mysterious, tricky light. It contains both truth and falsehoods, examines the unreachable from some warped vantage point, painting an imprecise yet very real picture.

Have we lost touch with the part of us that understood such distinctions between the real and the perceived? Have we ever known that? The darkling loops of penultimate “We Used To Know” cycle in crippled turns, underbelly scoured by basal static that drags and grumbles the piece in its attempt to dredge an ancestral spirituality from time. It passes sadly into closing “Glittering Pain”, whose maudlin and distal idiosyncrasies create a depressing conclusion.

The piano is there, somewhere, and the synth sustains float across its surface, but it all lies beneath a pall, subsumed by absence and confusion, loss. The logical part of us tells us that they are gone, that no mental trickery can bring back their corporeal form, and the grief catches up. It all just sinks away, away, away.

Perhaps the truth is that life is so hard upon us that we must imagine ways in which it is not. There is comfort to be had in imagining our loved ones haunting familiar places, that remnants of our ancestors long since lost to time inhabit spiritually significant spaces, in believing that maybe there are forces at work in the world beyond our understanding existing at the edges of our comprehension.

Natural fictions, perhaps.