Abre Ojos – Häxan DVDr not on label (self released) 2012
Abre Ojos are a project that I have only been made aware of recently, but from their self-described tag line of “improvised sound and vision for dystopian meditation” it provides a strong indication that the project is concerned with more than just its audial aspects. Further investigation reveals that Abre Ojos functions as a staunchly multi-media project where the visuals as a counterpoint to the music are considered an integral part of the overall whole. Evidently ‘Häxan’ is their fifth release since 2009.
Conceptually the album has utilised a 1922 silent film titled ‘Häxan – Witchcraft Through the Ages’ as an initial inspiration source (…albeit with a intention of inverting the message of the film). Likewise visual elements from the film have been sampled and in turn manipulated and processed beyond recognition. The end result is a multi-media album containing specific visuals for six tracks (which incidentally span 66.6 minutes to obviously align with the conceptual content).
Given the multi-media nature of the project it would be remiss not to mention the visual aspects first which are certainly a visual feast of kaleidoscopic effects. Here the viewers’ retinas are treated to multi-coloured miasma of computer generated geometric shapes which are constantly shifting and morphing into new patterns and sequenced formations. During some sections the visuals are limited to a swirling mass at the centre of a black screen, whilst during others they extend across the entire visual frame. Although it is somewhat difficult to describe the visuals in words*, they are most definitely hypnotic to watch and constitute the perfect visual backdrop for this type of music in a live setting – of which Abre Ojos do exactly that when playing live. (*Hint: the album covers gives a good indication of what to expect).
Coupled with the visuals the audio elements consist of some excellent archaic drones and cosmic dark ambience, where each of the six tracks follow a similar sound palate and sonic structure. Effectively this is droning dark ambience done with a heavy dose of pulsing cosmic radiance, bass heavy rumblings and sections of jagged tonality that avoid becoming all out noise. Likewise there is a heavily processed aspect to the sustained synth textures and cyclic drones, which are also occasionally underscored by slightly more animated pulsing rhythms and crystalline metallic elements. Yet this is not to say that ‘Häxan’ is a totally alien soundscape bereft of human aspects, as ritual chimes and processed vocals (ranging from whispers to chanted choir like textures) are sporadically utilised, thus providing some earthly grounding to the material. To give some more focused and comparative markers, ‘Häxan’ has a certain linage with the dark ambient material coming from the likes of Malignant Records or Loki Foundation – think Phelios, Phaenon, Sphäre Sechs, Blood Box etc and possibly the abstract elements of Inade for suitable reference.
From the liner notes evidently both the music and visuals are interactive and were performed and recorded live in the studio, which is surprising as both the music and visuals come across as far more considered and composed than a live studio recording might suggest. However due to the similarity of the sound across the six tracks ‘Häxan’ is best approached as a singular metamorphosing and meditative composition. Likewise despite being a multi-media project when approached from a mediative listening perspective the music is such that it can actually stand on its own as a pure audio piece.
Noting this is a self released production the overall packaging and presentation is slick and professional and although the physical release was limited to a mere 50 hand numbered copies, the full release is available for viewing or download via their website and bandcamp pages. At this point Abre Ojos may be an obscure project to many, but based on ‘Häxan’ further attention is warranted.