One beautiful side effect of handling A Scene In Retrospect for so long is that I’m constantly exposed to all sorts of music thanks to the input of my dear colleagues; more often than not, it means stumbling across stuff I never would’ve known existed otherwise. Okay, that’s an overstatement, but the main sentiment stands, and today’s ASIR is a wonderfully illustrative example.
You see, both Lumisokea and their Mnemosyne album would’ve never crossed into my periphery if it weren’t for my originally scheduled record flopping hard at capturing the team’s interest (not the first time that’s ever happened, neither will it be the last) and Eeli stepping up with an alternative solution. So guess whose take you’re going to be reading today? Exactly. Either way, for Mnemosyne‘s 8th anniversary, let’s see why it might be a record worth catching up on.
Lumisokea, or lumisokeus, is a finnish world that translates to snow blindness, also known as photokeratitis, or ultraviolet keratitis. Akin to a sunburn of the cornea, the painful eye condition is caused by unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light from either natural or artificial origin, and spans a plethora of dire symptoms. Usually when removed from the injury source, the healing can be rapid, granted that even a few days of it will cause anyone some immense discomfort. One natural – and particularly obvious – cause of the condition is, surprise, snow. If you’re lucky to live somewhere where seasons are still a thing instead of a relic of the past, you’re probably familiar with gigantic white masses stretching farther than the eye can see before uniting together with the sky seamlessly, as you are familiar with what happens when sun envelops these peripherals. In short, it’s bright as fuck, and messes up your sight as well as the ability to recognize patterns or changes in terrain. Besides the pain factor, this of course poses quite a bit of other potential hazards.
Much like the above concept, being exposed to Lumisokea, the Belgian/Italian experimental electronic duo based in Germany, for long periods of time, has its own effects on you. Granted the pain factor is missing, the latter point of a seemingly still yet dangerous landscape applies to the band’s sonic appearance. Koenraad Ecker and Andrea Taeggi make up this texturally unbelievably rich and aurally adventitious act whose third album Mnemosyne, released on Alter in 2015, turns eight this month. We could’ve really picked any release from the band to be featured here, but I proposed Mnemosyne solely due to the fact that somehow, in some inexplicable way, it stands out from the band’s flawless and exquisite discography.
Mainly constituting of improvised electro-acoustic instrumentation, Lumisokea manages to tap into some rather profound source – a secluded and boarded up well somewhere deep in the human, soul if you will – to create something that’s unnerving, soothing, holistic, and tangible in equal measures. Everything feels so damn distant yet up close, cold and callous but somehow heartfelt and warm, and especially on Mnemosyne, these components come together so fluently that it’s actually quite puzzling to listen to it. Imagine undergoing an out of body experience, but instead of hovering above yourself and watching your lifeless self from above, you sort of exist besides yourself, monitoring every micromovement you make while experiencing the album, as if trying to catch a glimpse of comprehension from aside about what to feel about it. I’m fairly certain any and all sensations are positive in one way or the other, even though they are inflicted by mainly spine-chilling means.
Lumisokea have a way of composing themselves in an immediate manner, putting the listener in a state of limbo where they’re simultaneously within the music itself as well as ulterior to it. ”Flatland”, the opening track on Mnemosyne, instantly puts you in this position, taking you in to the act’s internal delirious world while asking you to merely observe everything and to not touch anything or speak to anyone (or anything) you might encounter during this trip. The grating ambiance bolstered with sub-bass blows and tumultuous frequencies is an inviting scene, setting the way for a variety of tonalities to come. I should add that even though the instrumentation is quite tormenting and creepy, the production is surprisingly warm and fuzzy, underlining the juxtapositions elaborated on above.
One aspect that Lumisokea truly excels on, and which makes Mnemosyne the beast it is, is their capability of crafting continous movement by means of delicate but confident sound design and thrilling instrumentation, seeking emphasis from elsewhere rather than the normal band setting. The improvisational angle of course adds a lot of adventurous and unforeseen elements to the mix, and it’s the varying relation between all of these things making them and their releases what they are. A part of me would be very keen to peek behind the curtain and see how it all comes together, but at the same time, I really don’t want to know. I’d much rather focus on what I’m hearing than scrutinize and pick apart the components solely due to fascination. Ignorance is bliss, in this instance.
Goes without saying that I enjoy discerning things, as many of you do too, and on Mnemosyne, that is found more explicitly on the longer, more out there songs such as ”Risacca”, ”Jenseits”, and ”Prowl”, which take their time to unfold and build the tension without ever offering an actual release, but slowly seep and swerve their tortuous ways. In contrast the short, two or three-minute tracks that colour the restof the album are maybe a tad lighter overall, even though actual light or airyness are somewhere else entirely. These together make Mnemosyne a holistic and all-encompassing entirety that feels very whole and thought-out, and even though Lumisokea has garnered a lot of deserved attention, I can’t help but wonder at times why they aren’t in the spotlight all the time. Surely they’ve laid low for a while, and this type of stuff doesn’t exactly dominate the charts, but what the fuck, still.
Mnemosyne is a gigantic album that’s a figurative pitfall much in the sense of the masses of snow discussed in the first paragraph, granted that the album is much more safe to explore, and you can keep it with you throughout the year, too. You’ll also notice something that I realise after each listen, which is that Lumisokea also manages to distort time in some wonderous way, as Mnemosyne only runs for a hair over forty minutes, but offers so much more in some indecipherable way. I can speak from experience when I say it’s not an album for all occasions, though it’s certainly one for many of them. We are living in a world going down the drain after all, so why not revel in it with a fitting soundtrack. In conclusion, you should listen to Lumisokea, and Mnemosyne, fair and simple.