Genre: Experimental / Improv / Ritual Ambient
This is the first of two tape reviews that surround one of the more original cornerstone releases of 2011, “Gratitudes” on Small Doses. “Gratitudes” was perhaps one of the most underrated albums of the year, but this humble CD certainly turned some heads, especially around here at Heathen Harvest. Nathaniel Ritter, whom is one-half of Kinit Her, is also a co-owner of Brave Mysteries, a tape-based label (with the occasional LP) that has quickly been gaining momentum this year and reaching a wide audience in the realm of esoteric-themed music. While the label has been taking the underground world by storm, Ritter’s project Kinit Her (with Troy Schafer of Rain Drinkers) have been quietly building a solid collection of recent releases, starting with “Divine Names” (who’s tracks would later appear on “Gratitudes”), then “Mosaic of the Hyacinths” on UK-based Paradigms Recordings, the aforementioned “Gratitudes”, and now this, “Living Midnight at the Harvest Abbey” on Brave Mysteries. This limited tape also features Clay Ruby of Burial Hex fame, and is the successor to “Gratitudes”. Thus, it immediately has a high bar to reach in terms of quality and both instrumental and ritual prowess.
Any fan of occult or Taoist literature should have their interest piqued by the phrase “Living Midnight” which is undoubtedly a reference to the book by German “freestyle shamanic” author Jan Fries. Of course the rest of the title implies that this is a personal take on the book itself outside of its Taoist origins, so the reference should be seen as a starting point rather than a defining trait. “Living Midnight…” is a more simplistic release in composition than its predecessors, featuring a large amount of percussion and low-end texture. The tape starts out slowly, taking on a minimal and surreal atmosphere with a moderate bombastic nature. A sound reminiscent of a ship searching for its harbor through the mists, perhaps a dark march of souls aboard Charon’s ferry, crossing the Acheron. The track becomes pulsating and descends into chaos with booming cymbal crashes and bold synth notes. Roughly halfway through, the track reaches its climax and relaxes into dark ambiance, a collapse that leads into a temporary textures of deep, cavernous drone. Sitar notes are played gently behind the moaning roar of the drone creating a melancholic yet pensive state of reverie. Ritter’s voice eventually makes its inaudible entrance, distorted beyond perception, yet continues the brooding and melancholic mood laid by the track before it quickly breaks away, heralding the end of its existence. The opening segment of side B, primarily the portion preceding the the strummed sitar that leads into heavy ambiance — but really the entire first section in general — lacks the same cohesive atmosphere that flowed through the first part of “Living Midnight…”. This introduction into the track sounds unnecessarily chaotic and disruptive, but the course is quickly corrected. Improvisation is always at its most difficult in the opening portion of a track as the musicians try to find one another in tempo and melodic structure and it is difficult to fault the musicians for a lapse in cohesiveness during that time.
Truthfully, in this respects, it momentarily gives the trio a more human sound — taking, for just a moment, the listener out of the depths of the esoteric, and bringing him back into the world of the living. The trio, as stated, quickly correct the course and return to a musing state that lulls the listener back into its depths, but for a moment the darkened veils of ritual and occultist ideals are drawn back and what is revealed are three brothers in arms whom are quietly building an empire of intellectual works. The music of Kinit Her is inspirational, even in its low moments. There’s something to be said about art that is made between individuals that share something more than simple interests and hobbies — it’s obvious that these three are intertwined as it shows through their creations, and while Ruby is only a temporary part of Kinit Her for this release, he is the other half of Brave Mysteries and sounds as if he’s belonged with this project from its inception on “Living Midnight…”. Composing music with this kind of authentic æther absolutely requires this closeness between musicians, but, as said, this look is fleeting and we return to a delicate, ambient texture that continues to evolve and weave within itself until the very end.
The cover art is a cropped and slightly distorted version of an illustration by Harry Clark entitled “Ligeia” which, itself, is an image that was inspired by the short story of the same name by Edgar Allen Poe. The crop cuts off a large portion of what makes the illustration noticeably related to the character (her long, flowing raven hair) which, in some strange manner, gives the illustration an all-together new presence with its straight, rigid left side dominated by the character, overwhelming the narrator of the story below. She is a character that is appropriate both because of her dark appearance, relating to crepuscular beauty found within the tape, but also in subject matter because of her noted intelligence and knowledge of mysticism / metaphysics. It can be assumed also that the narrator is experiencing an opium-induced hallucination during the night of his second wife’s death and continuous reanimation. It would seem that this aspect of the short story is shadowing the improvisation in the music, and while I don’t believe that the music on “Living Midnight…” is based on this short story, the similarities between theme and music are staggering.