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No Gods, No Time, All Being: Alexander Nym on Patrick Leagas's "Godlesstate"

Patrick Leagas

Patrick Leagas

.:.NO GODS, NO TIME, ALL BEING.:.

Patrick Leagas’s Recent Album Godlesstate Is an Exploration into the Dawn of Humankind and Realms Beyond Consciousness

by Alexander Nym

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Godlesstate carries a brief mission statement on its back sleeve, describing the disc’s contents as a, ‘personal attempt to codify audibly the somewhat unfathomable ritual religious practices of our collective pre-history’. And who else but Patrick Leagas would be cut out to face such a challenge? On his previous conceptual project Fleischmaschine, he dealt with the carnage of WWII. Now he’s turned the clock back several millennia to introduce to us the acoustic equivalent of a holodeck trip through Jean-Jacques Annaud‘s unequalled epic La Guerre du Feu (Quest for Fire, 1981).

Leagas’s trademark martial drumming is present throughout most of the album, albeit in a more subdued manner than on Fleischmaschine, which is all the more threatening. Shifting layers of moody ambient drones dominate, driven forward in a dynamic yet timeless manner by savage thumps of tribal drumming with speckles from horns and similar equivalents to woodwind and brass instruments, suggesting fragmented melodies from times long past, the emerging patterns of what would become more familiar structures of musical expression throughout subsequent ages.

Godlesstate is not so much the exploration of a godless state of primordial awakening prior to the human invention of beliefs and ideologies (since, arguably, early man was interested in supernatural explanations for, and ways to predict/influence environmental events), as it is an introspective retro-projection of what music may have sounded like in the harsh and dangerous world of prehistory. It is a stripping away of all ties and recollections of anything remotely resembling pop or rock conventions, laying bare the essentials of sound and rhythm as aural components of rituals confined to the darkest corners of our collective memory.

Godlesstate

Godlesstate

The first track thus serves as an accordingly sinister invitation to the ‘Godless State’ where, as we’re told by the hardly sybillic lyrics, ‘only fear exists’. And we’re not spared: The subsequent track ‘Birch Initiation’ takes an unexpected turn towards ‘Discipline’-style synth beats and heavily distorted, echo-laden savage shouts. ‘Seed Time Slipping’ takes the aggression and threatening gloom back a few notches and instead amplifies the ritualistic elements in the mix.

The studio treatment of natural materials like shells, reed pipes, and such complements the archaic aura with a sense of contemporaneity which takes the album beyond a mere exercise in neo-primitivism to various stages of almost manic intensity. Like in some of 6Comm’s best ‘ethnic’ recordings, ‘Vedic Transference’ features oriental finger drumming, playing off synth-based layers of sounds. Rattles, drones, and chants dominate ‘Cedar Forest’ which, at over nine minutes duration, clocks in as the album’s third longest track yet doesn’t impress as much as the others as it lingers on undecidedly. ‘Enkidu’s Wildness’ changes gear, preparing for attack with menacing battle drums, shells, and wait-pipe. Only Leagas’s voice is electronically garbled, de-humanised, and adds to the overall sense of despair, dread, and impending threat.

This sounds like the soundtrack to a realistic version of Vikings or Game of Thrones, reveling in mud, blood, and dirt unlike the well-groomed, good-looking, and stylishly tattooed characters inhabiting the cozy fantasy worlds of television. Since Leagas’s compositions derive from the fundamental dramas of the human condition, wrath and despair always find their counterbalance in relaxing, almost homely passages, and thus ‘Enkidu’s Wildness’ finds catharsis in a conciliatory finale, followed by the dreamy ‘Ice Voyage’ (fittingly supplied with Swedish vocals from Roger Ekstam) which takes us on the northern seas and conveys both the tenderness of the watery element and its raw power as the music ebbs wave-like. While fading into actual wave sounds, ‘Doggerland’ is dedicated to air with field recordings of birds and ambient noise reminiscent of wind. The arrangement is, as in the preceding track, partly classical. Layer upon layer of sound are added on top of each other, combining brass and strings with distorted synth pads and interfering noise.

Even though ‘Doggerland’, much like its predecessors, has a distinct air of film music to it, it is both the longest (with more than ten minutes) as well as the most introverted and brooding one of the album’s tracks, and far removed from all notions of stone age music found previously. It also marks the conclusion of Godlesstate’s first outing; the remaining three tracks are separated from the others on the listing and are thus to be understood as bonus tracks.

Patrick Leagas

Patrick Leagas

‘Happy New Year Deer’ is mostly a two-minute jaw harp escapade and sounds way more enigmatic and mystic than this dry description is able to convey. ‘Zika at the Sill’ is a seven-minute reprisal of ritual drums with weird sounds and chants, ending with a prolonged slowing down; it has a coda-like feel to it, as if to reprise the mood of some of the preceding tracks without reaching their intensity and dynamic. In direct contrast to this, the final track, ‘Catalhoyuk & Beyond’, is by far the danciest tune on a record full of hefty rhythms that nevertheless don’t offer themselves for clubs. It is a rerecording of the classic Mother Destruction track ‘Beyond the Ka’, originally featured on 1994’s aptly named album Pagan Dance. The track blends in with the Godlesstate concept seamlessly, highlighting that 6Comm’s—as well as Mother Destruction’s—prior excursions into the musical realms of the archaic were never coincidental nor derivative.

Overall, the album’s compositions are marked by a beguilingly deceptive yet deliberate randomness and sonic fluidity which leave space for the listener’s imagination to wander and float across interchanging textures and moods, sometimes animated by rhythm, sometimes shifting from one to the other, and at points epic as an ancient battle painting then again surprising in its impish celebration of coalescing different styles into an alluring whole.

This CD clearly isn’t a mere collection of tracks to be listened to on their own, mixed randomly into some playlist. Godlesstate is executed with astounding imagination, coupled with Leagas’s decades of experience in producing all manner of music and production, and should be listened to as a whole. Its organic mix of harsh industrial effects, tribal rhythms, and the heady spaciousness of primordial mushroom-chewing, cave-dweller ambience makes this album more than a unique listening experience. Transforming the atmosphere and feeling of awe inspired by the deceptively simple production of sound with the neolithic means our forebears would have engaged in, Leagas’s compositions fuse his passions for filmic ambient scores, experimental electronica, and tribal dance music to stage a convincing (re)creation of an acontemporary neo-primitivist scenery in which dramatic rituals take place.

Rituals that are yet beyond the shackles of orthodoxy in a pre-ideological, literally godless state are described by Leagas as those of ‘absolute unitary being’. In regard to his evolution as a sovereign musician, composer, and producer, Godlesstate is a testament to his attainment of this unitary state in aural terms by conflating the diversity of styles he explored over decades with Death in June, 6Comm, Mother Destruction, and Fleischmaschine in one single album brimming with the intensity of powerful imagination and dense atmosphere while simultaneously being thoughtful, emotional, and multi-faceted, and revealing itself in fuller depth with each listen.

In between its lofty intangibility and its organic rootedness, an entire world beyond space and time lies waiting to be explored. The physical object of the CD and its hyper-stylised artwork, which is as primitivist as it is abstract, is merely the gateway: The sleeve design’s Shaman figure beating the bodhrun is using it to open a hole in reality’s brick walls, connecting the sun and it’s lifeforce in the upper right corner with the earth in the lower left and acting as a gateway for the ecstatic flows of generative creativity, eventually giving birth to (our perception of) the universe. However,  whether the other two drawings in the upper left and lower right corner symbolise an unsatisfied customer smashing a shopping cart with a hammer, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, get that CD and enjoy it at your earliest convenience.

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