“Mindfulness” is currently a popular expression. Divorced from its Buddhist origin, it’s morphed into a more-or-less meaningless word most often used in the context of pop psychology, self-help books, and remembering to stick to one’s arcane dietary restrictions. Considering what’s become of “mindfulness” and meditation in the West, it’s unsurprising that the Orthodox Christian custom of hesychasm—unceasing internal prayer—hasn’t really taken off with the healing crystals set. It involves “mindfulness” in a sense, yes, but it’s also a difficult, ascetic, self-annihilating practice meant to bring one into union with God, and it’s mostly been forgotten by Westerners, with the exception of devout Orthodox and that one really intense guy in your Russian history class.
…and New Processean Order, apparently. CrucifEgo is an immersive and disconcertingly personal release with a very specific intent: to depict the internal spiritual path taken by a disciple of the Process Church. While Processean theology is markedly different from that of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the path and practice, as laid out in CrucifEgo, is considerably less so.
It’s this specific aim that makes the album difficult to both review and appraise from a critical standpoint. As one of the aims of the hesychast is to “bring the mind into the heart,” the listener must suspend their disbelief, their preferences, and their preconceptions. An individual may like or dislike spoken-word pieces, for example, but from the moment Alessandro Papa intones that “there is a cross inside you” through a tintinnabulation of ringing bells, the raw intent behind the album is immediately apparent. Papa’s quiet exhortations to “crucify the ego” could be melodramatic and overwrought, but instead they take on a hypnotic quality that draws the listener, willing or otherwise, into the religious psychodrama.
At first listen, it’s tempting to say that CrucifEgo is a “quiet” album, or that it’s “quieter” than the band’s 2014 debut Hymns to the Great Gods of the Universe. At points it certainly seems that way. “Preghiera del cuore” (“Prayer of the Heart”), for example, is a throbbing, minimal meditation on tape loops and organ drones that seems to disappear before the listener can fully absorb it. Though it lacks the latter album’s segues into techno and occasionally terrifying vocals, it’s shot through with bursts of noise that fracture chanted mantras and walls of static that crumble into nothing. The path of inner stillness, it seems, is at times paved with cacophony. It’s not that the sound is particularly subdued; regardless of how abrasive it may become at certain points, the music never loses its meditative aura. This may be due in part to the band’s use of a veritable arsenal of traditional Tibetan instruments, from a human thighbone trumpet to bells. For reasons difficult to explain, I initially found myself comparing the album to John Fahey or Sir Richard Bishop. While there’s nothing remotely American or primitive about New Processean Order’s sound, there’s a similar hypnotic aspect to it that compels the listener forward, down the bhakta’s path, no matter how abrasive, sparse, or difficult to comprehend it becomes.
Uniting listeners with the Three Great Gods of the Universe is a tough order for a sophomore album that clocks in at just over an hour. Detailed liner notes explain the religious significance behind each track, but will the casual listener absorb what’s been written? It may not matter. It’s unnecessary to understand the album’s theological underpinnings in order to become lost in the sound. Meditative moments are hard to come by. CrucifEgo might not put you on the ascetic’s path, but it’s an unnervingly contemplative hour in time that requires one to put aside all preconceptions and become immersed in the music.
A2) A Light in the Tunnel of Darkness
A3) Preghiera del cuore
A4) Alma Deum
B1) Om Saham Hamsa
B2) Preghiera neoprocessiana del cuore