Review by Jason Guest
Described as a religion without a name, the ritual ambient duo Arktau Eos has been making ritual dark ambient music since 2005. Comprised of two musicians known as AIH and AIL, they use an array of unusual, ethnic and self-built instruments, as well as synths from the ‘60s and ‘70s in “an intuitive or a mediumistic manner”, working in a “specially built studio-laboratory” to record their material on real, old-time reel tape. Their work is an attempt to capture the spirits that evade our consciousness but reveal themselves to us only in our dreams for the purposes of illumination.
Their arcane and esoteric music is ritualistic and meditative, slow and deliberate, music that has to be digested and so they have chosen to release two new albums in two different formats, Ioh-Maera on CD only and Unworeldes to be made available only on vinyl. Brian Eno said that, for music, every format commands a different way of listening. In being big, fragile and comparably expensive, vinyl has to be handled carefully and so brings with it a certain kind of reverence. The playing of vinyl demands interaction from the listener who, every 20 or so minutes has to make a choice as to whether to play the same side again, turn the thing over, or return it to temporary slumber in its sleeve. CDs on the other hand can be left to play from start to end, looped for all eternity, or set to shuffle, the choice of the listener impacting upon how the music and its meaning is experienced. In choosing the two different formats, both albums allow for a host of diverse listening experiences, each as potent as the other and each necessary to the ritualistic essence of the music.
Ioh-Maera (8 out of 10) emerges from beyond nothingness, the depths of ‘Unbinding Kaamos’ slowly evolving with a male vocal drone to initiate the ritual that is about to unfold. The steady ascension of ‘Noxfaros’s serpentine drone slowly weaves itself around the track’s subtle yet persistent rhythm before sinking back to its otherworldly plane. Poised on the penumbra of existence, ‘Sunken Luminaries’ is the vaguest of hints at what lies beyond the thin veil of mundane understanding, a faint light, a small sense of elation buried in the darkened drone before the gong-like chimes of the title track submerge us into its ethereal and dark timbres. Our senses once dulled, our understanding once encumbered by orthodoxy, our spiritual evolution stymied, the reverberant emptiness of ‘Otherstone Refraction’ depicts the slow demise of the barriers to knowledge, the veil collapses, burns, its embers dwindling to cold ash and the mysteries of existence silhouetted in the haze.
The portentous weight of Unworeldes (8 out of 10) begins with the chilling warmth of ‘The Cypress Watcher’, its gentle, weightlessness drone beguiling the listener into its meditative heft. The slow, deliberate melody of ‘Cove of the Seven-Winged’ is harrowing, as if in suspension, motionlessness and inert, over the mouth of infinity. While ‘Black Leaf Gaze’ is mysterious and dramatic, the reverberant choral sounds of ‘Geometry of Emptiness’ and the subtle rhythm that emerges later in the track that close the album are enthralling, its mournful tone pointing to something just out of sight.
Dark and esoteric, both Ioh Maera and Unworeldes are the absence of light, the embracing of the void, the ritualistic pursuit of the transcendent. The albums work well both alone and as companion pieces, the impact of their individual or combined effect felt and experienced with repeated plays. Both albums have to be returned to time and again for the subterranean highs and exultant mysteries contained within to be revealed at the behest of the listener willing to permit themselves such indulgence. Highly recommended.
Ioh-Maera Track listing:
- Unbinding Kaamos
- Sunken Luminaries
- Otherstone Refraction
Unworeldes Track listing:
- The Cypress Watcher
- Cove of the Seven-Winged
- Black Leaf
- Geometry Of Emptiness