For me, even before hearing the music, it’s all too easy to quickly become interested in Mammoth Ulthana. Perhaps it is partially because they are from Poland; a country which I recently found out I may have an ancestral connection with through my grandmother. More so, it has to do with the fact that these two individuals are artists in the truest sense of the word, much like Jan Carleklev of Sanctum. Knowing that the people behind the music are only using music as one aspect of communication creates an appreciation that goes well beyond the normal recognition of musical abilities, for artists such as these see the world in a different way than someone who is merely a musician (I say merely not as a lesser, for this is much more than I shall ever be — artists simply have a different method to creation). Finding out that even the order of the songs is in question — certain tracks can be skipped without the intention of fitting into the song that follows immediately after, or a completely different one — shows a level of cognition that is absolutely intriguing.
Overall, I am forced to pay attention to this, as someone who appreciates an artistic intent that rises above the twisting of a few knobs, which many in the vast experimental world are guilty of. While one of these members is creating installation pieces, the other is known for his work with HATI, whose split with Z’ev I reviewed a while back, and has collaborated with the likes of John Zorn. It is clear that this is something to take note of.
Many different directions coincide to find the sound that is perfect for them; some are organic in nature while others are purely digital. This approach fits into the aesthetic as a whole, for they are both of the ancient tribe they are named after, as well as the modern world. The presentation itself, throughout the album and website, is often of pseudo-sigil images which also look digital in essence, a combination of archaic esoteric worlds and the modern technological phenomenon in which we live. Truly, these individuals combine the past, present, and future, shifting between various worlds and creating environments which reflect all of them, and in particular their relation to each other.
Carious ambivalence mutates into various noises, wires cross with neurons, and bones mix with soundboards to create an ambiance that is never quite stagnant enough to evoke anything beyond ephemeral and fleeting fillings. Curious spooks arise squeaking and buzzing while ancient tones infiltrate the being in a confusing manner, as the madness of a computer board becoming fried evokes abysmal intonations. Scattered yet precise obsequious noises dissipate as bells return the listener to home, the hypnosis is over while sequentially just beginning. Crystalline vibrations construct places where the mind can wander, yet the quintessential question of who is pulling the strings is consistently being asked.
I am never quite sure of what to make of this, and for that reason, I appreciate the distaste in my mouth as I swallow yet another high-pitched squeal and nearly succumb to narcoleptic mania. It never settles enough to create any distinct ambiance, instead focusing on the interweaving of worlds collapsing upon worlds. Like a dream within a dream within a dream, each semi-conscious state seems to be another layer. Various gongs and bells and chimes and other so-called natural sounds create a faux serenity which is in a constant state of flux, yet I admit my succumbing fatigue as this presses on. At times, this seems so serene I almost trust and allow myself to be taken away, until more obscure noises are added of things being shaken. Still, when it is all said and done, I cannot fully slip into the dream they try to weave.
The aforementioned concept of certain tracks either being a prelude to the next track or the following one seems a bit odd, as it seems that any order of these songs would create a similar effect. It simply does not seem that any order of these songs would build in a distinct way like a traditional album does. This may take multiple listens to distinguish any necessary change within the order that the tracks are laid out in, as opposed to the route one can take.
Tracks like “Hybrid” are a harsh reminder of why you never want to get too cozy with this album. Persian noises arrive unexpectedly — Djinns erupting from a bottle perhaps — a computer itself erupts in the digital spectrum with human-like agony. Rattles and much more are used to disrupt and disturb the listener, suddenly emanating from the shadows, while electronic sounds continue on their path in what seems to be a battle between the ancient world and the new. As an example, this song could continue on as it is laid out on the track list into “Path”, or can be followed by the following track, “Nocturne”. Again though, these tracks are not distinct enough where it seems all that relevant, but it is an interesting concept to be played around with.
As stated previously, an album like this self-titled effort is certainly interesting in its various usage of sounds. What it does lack is an emotionally viable presence, of sadness or terror for example, or the esoteric angles that are contained within much of the world of dark ambient that gives it its power. This is an album more with a different way of approaching music, and certainly its hypnagogic effect is to be noted as well, although this is not of the caliber in that sense of, say, Robert Rich, or even the events that one Elm Outcault has hosted on the west coast.
Overall, the richness of the music where it does have a calming effect makes it highly suggestible for musicians, but not so much for the fans of experimental and ambient music. Many aspects of this are enjoyable; it just simply lacks that something extra to make this a monumental and memorable experience.