Review: Bong-Ra ‘Meditations’

Bong-Ra is a special kind of artist: A force for musical experimentation, and an unstoppable creative entity, he became established as a pioneer and scene leader in the harsh electronic genre of breakcore, spreading manic rhythms across the globe for two decades in version 1.0. For version 2.0, Bong-Ra mastermind Jason Köhnen, who has also been part of doom metal acts Celestial Season and The Answer Lies In The Black Void, decided to return to his slow and heavy roots transforming the project into a bass-centric monster.

Bong-Ra 'Meditations'

The album is meant as a homage to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, as well as inspired by the teachings of the Stoics. Meditations was released on 5th August by Tartarus Records and displays a very intentional and disciplined application of a large sound palette incorporating doom metal, jazz, and electronics. All songs were written and produced, and every instrument is performed by Bong-Ra aka Jason Köhnen, with guests Dmitry el Demerdashi on oud, Colin Webster on saxophone, and Eugene Bodenstaff on drums. The artwork is beautifully straightforward and was created by Animalian Art.

A meditative, medicating sound opens the album with the track Courage, which is fittingly tenacious. The bass comes in and fills up the spectrum with a massive drone sound that holds most of the bottom end, as well as a ton of gain, stacked next to each other. The drums have a great stand out sound, and they’re creating a lot of expressions. Keyboard and synth details along with moments are often popping up, keeping the whole thing from getting boring. There’s a great moment when the drone opens up into layered melodies of sexy sax runs, which free jazz their way back to the drone before the track ends on a great simple piano ending.

a large sound palette incorporating doom metal, jazz, and electronics…

Wisdom starts off really nasty and distorted, with the towering sound of the bass. When the drums enter, they bring in a charming swinging jazziness. There’s a moment of distant guitar and then a full wash of drone, strings, and synths. Sax, piano, and drums, in classic jazz trio format, take over midway for a dramatic moment. There are many emotions and sensations along this path to wisdom.

Oud and drums, really heavy drums, take us into Justice, evoking a sense of ancient presence, and cradles of civilizations. This track is like a meditative razor, drums always keeping up its sharp edges. Midway through the song, the bass drone returns to take over along with synths, giving it a different, modern shape, which manages to carry over some thematic coherence. It’s interesting to hear the guitar consistently fulfilling not a central, but a complementary role.

Temperance manifests another impressively massive bass drone, though brittle and glows on top, along with clouds of synths overhead. There is a sense of conclusion, of all previous elements being gathered to finally witness a new thing emerge, integrating all the previous moments into a picture, which is itself profoundly abstract, meant for the unconscious mind more than anything, and ending up by washing ashore back on the coast of consciousness.

Label: Tartarus Records
Band Links: Bandcamp

Scribed by: Goro Riffs