There is a concept that originated in the ancient world that each planet generated its own tone, like a musical note, based on the shape and size of its orbit: the musica universalis or ‘music of the spheres’. Pythagoras theorized that each celestial body (including the Sun and the Moon) had its perfect resonance and that the quality of life on Earth was linked to the pitch, tenor, and harmony of their ‘humming’. Plato felt that astronomy and music were linked, both finding expression through mathematical formulae. The music of the spheres was not meant to be understood as literal music, being inaudible to human ears, but I have a feeling that if Pythagoras and Plato ever dreamt of what the planetary symphony might sound like, I think they would have imagined something much like Acouasme, the latest release from the German duo Troum.
Stephan Knappe (otherwise known as Baraka[H] and the founder of Drone Records) and Martin Glitschel (Glit[S]ch) have been working together for upwards of thirty years, first as Screaming Corpses and then as two-thirds of Maeror Tri, so it’s hardly surprising that they are one of the most consistently excellent acts around. Yet, even by their standards, Acouasme is outstanding.
‘Troum’ is the Old German word for ‘dream’, a root that gives us both ‘dream’ and ‘trauma’, which is a dichotomy that suits the mood of this album rather well. To return to the musica universalis analogy, the pitch of the planetary drones in this case seems foreboding, melancholy, and fearful—something that portends a difficult time but also the possibility of survival and renewal. In a more practical sense, the music is made up of the sort of fathomless drones that have become the band’s signature over the years—a black ocean of sound that rises and falls like waves and tides.
As vast as Troum can sound, however, there is also something intimate about them. Perhaps it’s their reliance on acoustic sound sources (something that easily distinguishes them from many other ‘ambient’ acts), but Troum are cotton, not rayon, a little downier yet less sleek than their synthetic counterparts, and also a little cosier. Their music may call to mind the endless expanse of space (complete with the ever-present layer of static remaining from the Big Bang), but it also speaks to the infinite within the human psyche.
Listening to Acouasme is an emotional experience, or at least it should be. To use it as background sound is to insult it, to deny its full potential. You wouldn’t throw on 2001: A Space Odyssey as background while you clipped your toenails (or if you would, you’re probably the Antichrist). No matter how busy you are, how many commitments you have, or what might be happening to distract you, give yourself permission to disconnect and actively listen to this album; breathe with it, let it conjure images for you, and move along to it. It is quite possible that you will not have another album that can take you to the places this one can for a very long time. Such experiences are to be embraced.
01) Aliens Laughing About Us
03) Omega Melancholicum
04) Outer Brain Outsourcing
06) Signe du miroir