Anemone Tube – Golden Temple CD Raubbau 2016
Being issued reasonably quickly after the excellent cassette EP ‘In The Vortex Of Dionysian Reality’ (reviewed here), ‘Golden Temple’ is Anemone Tube’s third formal album since resurrecting the project in 2010. It is also the third work in a conceptual ‘Suicide Series’ which involves an abstract analyses of humanities contradictory nature and in part contemplates modern technologies/ societies which are fundamentally out of balance with nature at a global scale.
Before getting to the music on this new album, the presentation and packaging is noteworthy, featuring gold print on rough matt black card stock, resplendent with a selection of images of modern Asian city-scapes and reproductions of old masters paintings from the 12th to early 20th century (…which function to juxtapose the modern with the historic, as well as the realistic with the mythological or dreamlike). With such visuals and associated quotes, a core theme begins to emerge, being: the drive for personal spiritualism within a modern world focused on a spiritless pursuit of consumerisms and hedonism. Likewise other evident themes from such text and imagery would appear to include: humanities yearning desire for the spiritual and divine; the omnipresence and inevitability of death; self-obsession and personal narcissism. Yet far from representing some sort of ‘academic’ approach to music and theme, Anemone Tube is clearly rooted in and product of underground (post) industrial spheres, and in the current era where in certain underground quarters there is a drive to see how far matters of distaste and revulsion can be pushed*, Stefan’s work is refreshing in its sophisticated conceptual approach given its individualist slant and inspiration.
Regarding the music, this is split into the main bulk of album tracks, bracketing 6 compositions under the ‘Golden Temple’ and the final 2 tracks feature as an addendum of sorts, under the ‘Arkadia – Dreamland and Myth’ heading. The opening track ‘L’Homme Et Les Sirènes’, a piece representing a slow building cyclic maelstrom of swilling manipulated feedback and creaking, twisted and treated field recordings**, and harks back to the feel of the last album ‘Death Over China’. It is a sound which balances structure and chaos perfectly, one which has taken the complex randomness of field recordings of busy Asian streetscapes and crafted them into sculpted soundscapes of jagged yet structured tonality. The following pieces ‘Apocalyptic Fantasy’ and ‘Tower of Evil (The Ultimate Truth)’ shifts the mood by having a greater reliance on synths, which again balances the contradictory elements of the moody harmonic synth lines against the harsher disharmonic elements of shrill sustained feedback (…despite is more sonically challenging elements, the mood managed to remain as one of solemn reflection). ‘Negation of Myth’ is another moody piece which again traverses a knife’s edge of dour harmonic sustained melodies and disharmonic tones which ebb and flow throughout. ‘Sea of Lights (Golden Temple)’ sees the return of the more prominent manipulated street noise field recordings, although by tracks end these have all but disappeared leaving the synth melody to carry the piece to its conclusion. The final of the ‘Golden Temple’ series of tracks is ‘Anthropocene – The Dark Abyss of Time’, which arcs back to the harsh sonic maelstrom and sustained charged static and manipulated field recording elements of the opening piece – again an expert display of the refined balancing of sonic element of structure and chaos as well as melody and disharmony.
‘I, Death, Rule Even in Arcadia’ is the first track under the ‘Arkadia – Dreamland and Myth’ grouping, which clearly differs from the material which precedes it by virtue of its sparse and minimalist approach, which leaves lot more sonic room in the layered of looped field recording elements, which interweave and overlap with building intensity. The final piece ‘Tojinbo – Tranquil Sea Of Equanimity’*** then comes courtesy of the experimental sound artists Dave Phillips, who has recorded a 14 minute piece from source material provided by Anemone Tube. Although selected field recording elements are audible (water, wind, voices etc.), Dave Phillips has wielded these in a more experimental and minimal fashion when compared the preceding tracks by Anemone Tube, and in the process created a clinical soundscape of shifting sound and tone.
Noting the sophisticated levels achieved on earlier Anemone Tube albums (both from conceptual and musical perspectives), ‘Golden Temple’ is a work which has exceeded the emotive heights of Stefan Hanser’s own rather imposing high water mark. Although drawing on sonic elements from broad post-industrial spheres (dark ambient, industrial, noise, experimental etc), this is hardly derivative any of these genres given Anemone Tube have distinctive and individual sound which is essentially without comparison (…an equilibrium of structure & chaos and a balancing of harmony & disharmony). This album has been long awaited and is a veritable feast for the eye, ear and mind – as any good work of musical art should be – meaning ‘Golden Temple’ comes with a mandatory recommendation from these quarters.
* – It must be acknowledged that focusing on matters of distaste and revulsion within post-industrial spheres can have thematically interesting results, but on the specific proviso that is facilitated in a non-cliched way and not merely copying supposed genre ‘rules’.
** – The liner notes indicate the utilised field recordings were made in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nanjing and Shanghai in 2007/2009.
*** – This track contains field recordings made in Tojinbo, Japan which is a series of basaltic cliffs on the Sea of Japan, and infamous suicide spot, which therefore conceptually fits with the balance of the album and the broader ‘Suicide Series’.