One thing I need to impress upon you is that for all my involvement in the feature as its founder and curator, A Scene In Retrospect is not a vanity project for me. From my perspective, it’s all about the joy of giving my friends and colleagues an opportunity to write about records they might never get to share with our readership otherwise. This begins with me assembling the feature’s schedule almost exclusively from other people’s suggestions – I merely put them in a certain order based on different variables – and ends with articles such as this, where one (or more) of our writers gets to ramble passionately about a particular record.
‘Why the long-winded behind-the-scenes intro, Dom?‘, I hear you ask. Well, it’s to give you an idea of the satisfaction I get from editing these things every two weeks. Case in point, I’ve been meaning to make room for EIN staff writer Robert to write about Still by New Jersey experimental metal band Dionaea for a while now; various circumstances have pushed this record back a few times, but seeing how much it means to him made all my scheduling efforts worth it in the end. For me, and for him as well I hope.
Either way, this half-hour EP definitely deserves a new round of appreciation, even though its creators are barely coming out of hiding again after years of radio silence, and despite its polarizing nature (more on that later). So please indulge Robert as he shares his thoughts on Dionaea‘s Still!
Discovering Dionaea’s Still roughly eight years ago was a moment that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become one of the most important moments in my life in regards to my process of exploring music, and one very important moment in my life in general. One of my best friends just randomly figured one evening to share this band with me, as he received the recommendation from a friend of his who randomly stumbled into it. I distinctly remember him saying that he figured it would be something I’d listen to.
No one could’ve ever prepared me for what was going to happen after hitting play. I was amazed beyond words with Still. I remember playing it on repeat like there’s no tomorrow. I never heard anything even remotely similar up to that point, and still haven’t to this day. Of course, the itch got the better of me and I found myself embarking on a side quest where I wanted to find anything similar or vaguely related. In the process I discovered Exotic Animal Petting Zoo and Follow the White Rabbit, two other bands which joined my top all-time favorites alongside Dionaea. I obviously became obsessed to no end with the musical output of these great bands.
Weirdly enough, they’re all bands that released an album (two in the case of EAPZ) and then just straight-up disappeared. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking how a group of people can come together and create works of genius, only to then follow up in no way on that. I’m aware that such music is usually played and made by people who are super passionate about something and do this in their spare time, while they lead often busy lives with day jobs and all that jazz. That obviously plays a huge part into this, as well as the extremely small audience of such music.
However, I digress; the point I’m trying to get to is that on my obsessive journey with these three bands, starting from Dionaea, I eventually wanted to own a physical version of all of these. After long and arduous scouring in the weirdest corners of the internet – I eventually found a signed copy of Follow the White Rabbit’s Endorphinia and discussing with the seller, he turned out to be the one who runs Can This Even Be Called Music?. Upon further conversations I was invited in a group adjacent to the site on Facebook, where, about four years ago, I saw a post that Everything is Noise is looking for writers. That’s how I ended up here, starting my writing career so to speak, writing about one of the things I love most, as well as meeting some of the most amazing people out there.
My persistence in getting physicals was eventually rewarded and I have all these albums, especially the beautiful Dionaea vinyl, which is one of the rarest and most expensive things in my collection. While to some it may sound silly when detached from context, music can and will change lives. It absolutely changed mine for the better. An errant recommendation of a half an hour EP by a small trio from New Jersey on a random evening turned out to be monumental to me.
I can’t really speak with any distinct speck of objectivity towards the musical contents of Still. From what I’ve seen it’s a very hit and miss kind of deal. People tend to either love it or not really care about it, or just straight up dismiss it as a mindless collection of style-over-substance ideas. To each their own, I guess. Personally, my obsession arose from the way the record brings together post-rock, math rock, mathcore, and grindcore.
Now, that may sound a little gauche on paper but it’s very elegantly put-together. The more extreme elements aren’t overbearing, and they definitely leave their mark, emphasizing wild shredding and gatling gun-style percussion at incredible speeds. The softer parts rely on groove as much as melody, but make sure to create sweet textures as well. The production is incredibly tight, articulate, and clean. I’d almost err on the side of the ‘it’s sterile’ argument, but it manages to stay away from that by just a razor’s edge.
Still is short, as I mentioned, spanning barely half an hour, but holds a pocket universe’s worth of music inside. It manages to tell a very compelling tale, whose narrative thread neatly evolves and is wrapped up with a very satisfying, albeit (almost) cliché, climax.
The music alternates almost violently in between the stylistic segments that embody the mix. You could very easily split each song into small parts, and each could be assigned relatively easily to a particular style/subgenre; however, they go together so well that the transitions don’t really feel all that jarring.
It’s also still mind-boggling to me how this record can make me feel inspired, amazed, impressed, wistful, nostalgic, relaxed, engaged, energized, as well as making me empathize with a certain pain, drama, suffering, joy, bliss, ecstasy, and power, all in varying proportions over the span of half an hour. It doesn’t feel at all like a collage, but rather like an epic story that is being heavily condensed and distilled into a very small container.
Honestly, I still can’t really describe the auditory contents of Still in a way I feel would do justice to what you can hear there. I also fall short of accurately portraying the things I feel when I immerse myself in it. It’s like engorging on an entire life with all its ups and downs in some kind of super fast-forward.
I could probably ramble on from here on out, but I think I should pace myself and let you sink your teeth into this miracle of music and see what the deal is for yourself. While I was quite disappointed that the band has been silent since the record’s release eleven years ago, I recently saw some signs of life from their camp, and their drummer confirmed that they have been slowly working up to new material, which really makes me happy. I’ll gladly wait even another eleven years on top if the results are just as good.