Late last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing a vastly underrated and unfortunately little-known dark ambient / industrial record from the wonderful Polish artist ATUM entitled “Legendy Miejskie”, or “Urban Legends” as the English translation would have it. This album showcased an atmosphere that was both urban, as the title would imply, and with its industrial edge, at the expense of potentially giving substance to a cliché, was fairly cold and inhuman in sound. As impressive as this one-man project was, the man behind the music in Maciej Banasik had much more to offer outside of the industrial realm. Enter Docetism, a project that represents a different side of Banasik’s personality in that, while Atum represented the callousness that resides in the darkest corners of every man’s artistic spirit, Docetism explores the spiritual, the rhythmic, and humility as it pertains to the warm glow of the human heart. In other words, this is a chance for Atum fans to experience the other side of Banasik’s proverbial coin and perhaps complete the puzzle that makes up his artistic electronic vision.
For those whom find their intellectual interests dedicated in part or full to religious studies, the phrase “docetism” should immediately ring a bell in regards to the Gnostic doctrine; a doctrine that this entire album is based on. “Docetism” refers to a Gnostic belief that was eventually condemned as heresy by Saint Ignatius of Antioch that proclaimed Jesus Christ had no Earthly body and was instead an incorporeal spirit, thus implying that the suffering that was imposed on him upon the cross was a matter of observance and perception rather than a reality — there are obviously also many other implications to this idea. The concept of “Endura” in which this specific album is titled after refers to the Cathar practice of fasting in anticipation of death during their only sacrament; the Consolamentum. The Consolamentum is similar to the sacrament of Penance in that it purifies the believer of all sin, but can only be taken once in a lifetime; thus the sacrament was typically accepted in the moment when death was expected to draw near, and endura sped along the process in order to fulfill the newly attained purity through a quicker death, cutting short the chains of temporal existence and ascending to a higher being.
With these traits in mind, it immediately brings up the question “What is with the visual theme of nature that also shows in moments through the track list then?” Well, the easy answer for many is that nature is simply a Gnostic interpretation of God; the most pure form of the natural spirit existing above Orthodoxy (and the material world or demiurge) and thus representing both a superior being in a kind of Theophany as well as humanity in his image — this without going into too much detail as many tangents exist in a philosophical conversation. In a more personal interpretation based purely with contemporary issues, I feel like it is hard not to view the application of endura to nature as a social commentary on environmental concerns and humanity’s addiction to harmful substances that are speeding along the demise of not only our species, but many across the globe. A great many think the end of the world approaches, and it certainly feels like we, as a species, are doing everything that we can to speed along the process without care for any other beings, sentient or otherwise. Of course, my interpretation is used to show that this is one of those albums whose meaning will lie almost completely in perception as opposed to fact as the theme behind the music is almost assuredly not related to such current political matters.
So what of the music? “Endura” opens up with an atmosphere that will accompany the entirety of the album — that of a rhythmic, pulsating sound that is both open-aired as if recorded within the walls of a cathedral or other such spiritual large open rooms, and tribal. The sound is thus primitive in a sense, not only echoing such emotions found on the recent Moon Far Away album “Minnesang”, but also simply relating back to the basis for human ancestry. The opening track, “Deer”, is similar to the recent Shane Morris and Mystified collaboration “Epoch” through its strong ambience and animal-related field recordings that create imagery of fog-laden forested hills, a scene both somehow warm and gloomy. Though the album is completely void of vocals, I can’t help but feel the dub influences are so strong that they remind of the similarly thick and dreary ethereal environment created on Burial’s “Street Halo”, though that song has a bit more of an urban direction about it. Emotive qualities on “Endura” are also similar to the desolate, ghostly qualities that Stendeck achieved on “Scintilla”. Not a single song on the album can be seen as exceptionally dark, though all contain the warmth of the presence of the creator, especially in tracks that are introverted by their very nature such as both chapters of “Apodeipnon”.
“Endura” isn’t exactly overtly inventive, but it is the combination of music and theme that give this release a special kind of spirit behind it. It is beautiful and flawed, youthful and serious, simple and complex — all qualities that can be assumed in paralleled meanings through the album’s primary theme. With that said, there is an exceptional amount of quality in this release which is unsurprising considering the fruitful work that Banasik has put forth with Atum, but it is on a far different level. It is another example of an ambient-based work saying a great deal more without words than it would be able to say with a vocal accompaniment. If there is knock that can be applied to “Endura”, it is its unfortunate habit of maintaining a similar sound through each track without much of a climax. Despite the compositional flaw, “Endura” is certainly a solid work in the tsunami of spiritual music currently building in the post-industrial underground.
03) In the Heart of the Woods
04) Apodeipnon I
06) Alles Fleisch ist wie Gras
07) Dark Night of the Soul
08) Apodeipnon II
10) Quaterni [+ Hidden Track]