The cliché is that certain artists are ahead of their time, but I’ve always enjoyed music that is ahead of reality. Sopor Aeternus, the darkwave project of one Anna-Varney Cantodea, accomplishes just that, translating her own form of existence into the music and art within this, her latest offering, the beautifully packaged Mitternacht. Thus far, Mitternacht has enabled me to take myself to places within my mind that I never knew existed in the first place. Actually, to be completely honest, this is music which I had heard long ago, in countless hours of role-playing games.
Of course, I would sincerely doubt that Cantodea herself had otherworldly video game soundtracks in mind while composing Mitternacht. I would even doubt most listeners would say the music harkens back to a video game fantasy reference point as it did with me, but that is the very point: Each listener will have something new and incredibly personal invoked within them. It will lead you somewhere. These tracks will take you somewhere that is unexpected, but has always been there waiting. You will feel something. What you will hear on Mitternacht is Cantodea’s world, and if you dare to open the gates to her private universe of grief, agony, darkness, and despair, then by all means, enter with the knowledge that you won’t be exiting unaffected.
Cantodea self-describes the overall Sopor Aeternus experience:
“The first thing you have to understand is that Sopor is therapy. Self-therapy to be precise. It was/is something I had/have to do in order to … well … not end up killing myself. It is magic(k)al, spiritual work … a perpetual stock-taking … a constant analysis … it is crisis & observation … invocation & exorcism. It is a journey to the depths of the subconscious, the awakening of dead and/or sleeping things.”
With that being said, will you feel exactly what she does for her therapy project? Will you feel exactly the way I did upon my first several listens? It is said that this album begins exactly where the last Sopor Aeternus release, Poetica, left off—that is, in the realm of dreams and all things beyond. If any album I have ever heard has developed the ability to sound like a dream, this would be it. To truly achieve “the sound” of a dream is the highest compliment I can give, especially for many of us who would rather our existence take place in the dream-world.
We can’t look at Mitternacht without looking at the overall presentation of Sopor Aeternus or Anna-Varney Cantodea herself. Do some people see her artistry as a mirror of pretension or melodrama? Most certainly, but it is also fair to say that our opinions don’t amount to much in the world created by Mitternacht.
Mitternacht is essentially an album about loneliness, and as a consequence, the need for companionship. One could say this is private music meant for few other ears, but we should be glad it has been shared with the public as the major “success” of this album is that it engulfs its audience into this very private world of Cantodea’s. Today, despite saying otherwise, there are so few artists that decide to rail against what all others think or will think of their art, leaving Sopor Aeternus as an island of inspiration that is truly woven from Cantodea’s own essence. For music crafted with the most minimal, simple, and repetitious ingredients, the atmosphere is richly evocative; it is as if the music was robbed from another time, real or imagined.
To speak on the packaging of Mitternacht, the album comes in two different formats: compact disc, with a thirty-six-page hardcover book and an exclusive T-shirt (limited to 1999 copies), and on 12″ vinyl with a twenty-eight-page booklet and two posters (limited to 890 copies). Both editions are signed and numbered by Cantodea and feature illustrations by Anastasiya Chyringa—a fan whose artwork she encountered on Tumblr—alongside cover artwork by Natalie Shau. The extra effort that has clearly gone into Mitternacht‘s overall package harkens back to the days when you might try an album out at the music store just based on the cover, just as I did, spending many an hour searching for the weirdest and strangest albums I could find and taking many chances. Had I no knowledge of the Sopor Aeternus project and had come across the package of Mitternacht in a record shop, it would have been difficult for me to pass up just based on the cover alone. The illustrations within the hardcover book are simply stunning; the entire package recalls hours of time with other albums, sitting down, devouring liner notes and spreading out gatefold covers.
The music within Mitternacht specifically, well… let’s suffice it to say the opening track beyond the introduction, “Beautiful,” could not have been a better choice. The entire album is captured brilliantly in one momentary image, disintegrated in a photo flash of total recognition by this single track, irreversibly setting this stage for the rest of the album. I dare say that “Beautiful” encapsulates everything that Sopor Aeternus is in itself: a haunting invitation to this mysterious other world that Cantodea has created. Its simplicity is elegant, and its beauty comes from another place that is unreachable to us—a darkened shrine hidden deep within the artist.
03) La Prima Vez
05) The Boy Has Built a Catacomb
06) Carnival of Souls
08) Under His Light
09) You Cannot Make Him Love You
10) Into the Night
11) If You Could Only Read My Mind
12) It’s Just that My Sadness
13) Under His Light (2)