Raison d’etre – Mise en Abyme CD Transgredient Records 2014
Raision d’etre return with a new album some 5 years since the last official full length, and whilst not necessarily deviating greatly from their recognised sound, solo member Peter Anderson is still producing interesting variations on well established themes. This album also sees raison d’etre shifting to a new label following the unfortunate demise of Cold Meat Industry, with Transgredient Records being a side label to the respected Drone Records.
Noting that 2009’s ‘The Stains of Embodied Sacrifice’ articulated a sonic environment of sacral dark ambience, including selected passages which veered towards a jarring post-classical sound, a similar sonic aesthetic has been explored on ‘Mise en Abyme’ (translating to “placed into the abyss”), but here condensed into 4 lengthy compositions (12 to 17 minutes each). ‘Abyssos’ opens the album and could thematically represent the decent into the abyss of one’s own psyche. Dour sub-orchestral synths, windswept drones and metallic scraping textures mark the path and while the mood commences as serene, over its expanse it gradually builds to an intensely peaked crescendo. The following track ‘Infernous’ clearly implies a heavier visage, which does in fact deviate heavily from anything previously found in raison d’etre’s discography. Towards the middle of this piece micro-tonal grating metallic textures and heavy clanging scrap metal cacophony mark a large portion of the sound (…these sonic elements appear to have been sourced from scrap metal recording sessions, which have in turn been sonically manipulated into vaguely rhythmic effect). Whilst ‘Infernous’ has the potential to jar listeners who are more familiar with the ambient and sacral side of raison detre’s sound, this track clearly seems to be a sonic representation of self-flagellation. Yet with the underscoring elements of wailing quasi-brass horns and sub-orchestral drones, Peter positions these heavier metallic elements squarely within the framework of raison d’etre. ‘Katharos’ then arcs back to more familiar territory of a floating melancholic atmosphere (perhaps acting as a means of catharsis to the heavier grating elements of the ‘Infernos’ which preceded it), here utilising sampled Greek Orthodox chants, swelling sub-orchestral waves, sparse ritual chimes and subtle metallic scraping textures. The final album track ‘Agraphos’ rounds out the album in calmer fashion by gradually building in an upward sweeping trajectory, as if seeking to elevate above the depths and heaviness of earlier album passages. Despite its slightly lighter tonal guise, it is still a track heavily infused with a dark and gloomy mood, again constructed with the Gregorian chants and sweeping soundscapes, sparse chimes/ tolling church bells and a general sonic palate infused with a thumping echoed depth.
Whilst ‘Mise en Abyme’ does not necessarily turn the tables on what has come before, rather it represents yet another step in the continual refinement of raison d’etre’s style. As such Peter (again) effortlessly demonstrates his skill in evoking a sacral dark ambient sound, which very much suits solo appreciation and contemplation and introspection on the part of the listener.