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Book of Shadows – Mantis (2015 Reissue)



It is quite obvious from the beginning that nothing that takes place on Mantis was planned or composed. Starting with a bunch of droning noises, the album lives up to the label it’s released on, Reverb Worship. Mantis is the kind of album you can imagine seeing performed in the corner of an art gallery, while people sip wine and discuss the merits of a sculptor’s newest piece. Nothing resembling composition exists on this, and instead, what is presented is an album that is quite cerebral and entrancing for a work of what is almost assuredly improvisation, but of course, when you have a Theremin, you really can’t go wrong. Mantis has all the right ingredients, with few surprises to set it apart from the hundreds of other experimental and psychedelic noise groups and projects.

Book of Shadows is a quartet consisting of the aforementioned Theremin, guitar—which is used mainly for drone and atmosphere—keyboards, a few film excerpts, and eerie chanted vocals. I have come across many similar projects, especially through Butoh, and it is quite common to have female vocals that create a similar atmosphere through otherworldly sounds and vocalizations, most of which hardly resemble language. Music like this is solely atmosphere, and it’s heaped on with plenty of reverb and other elements which add to the entrancing effect. Admittedly, this is great music to relax to with some marijuana or some other heady mind-altering substance; perhaps Absinthe would be a good fit as well, as the music will guide your mind into other realms as your thoughts drift and you leave consciousness behind. These various layers allow enough to happen to keep the listener’s attention, with a subtle guitar and the continuing waves of noise which always remain controlled yet on the brink of coming apart at the seams.

Some noises do manage to escape that seem out-of-place: high squeals and other squeaks that tarnish the landscape. With such music, this is always to be expected; it is called experimental for a reason, after all. Noises drift in and out, gaining in velocity then dissipating through the relatively standard oscillating approach. At times, a sound or vocalization can distract you, making you shake off the cobwebs and come back to earth. At other times, you are sucked in deeper into their strange world. The heavy breathing in “Ponder on This” that coincides with the film sample is well done, inducing anxiety and demanding full attention. At times, I can understand how this could be too much for some people. I do believe this was originally released over a decade ago, so it’s nice to see something like this being given a second chance. As per the usual, the film clips that are used seem to have little to do with anything, I find it difficult to apply any meaning or reason to this, but just like modern art it is the experience itself that is relevant.


Track List:

01) The Blue Whale
02) Angel of the Presence
03) Histories of Abandon Canyon
04) Ponder on This
05) Devachan
06) The Escapist
07) Silent Movie

Written by: Patrick Bertlein
Label: Reverb Worship (United Kingdom) / RW295 / CD-R
Psychedelic / Improvisation / Drone