Review: Codex Serafini ‘The Imprecation Of Anima’

How to address Codex Serafini? On their own terms as trans-planetary musical ritualists from the ice moons of Saturn? Or as a young and thrusting psych band from the South East of England? I would suggest that requiring the listener to choose one or the other would be to some extent taking the fun out of things. For those who bristle at the pretention of mythos, Codex Serafini are reassuringly free of extraneous guff, and for fellow travellers who dig the kosmische, they are as far out as the story suggests.

Codex Serafini 'The Imprecation Of Anima' Artwork
Codex Serafini ‘The Imprecation Of Anima’ Artwork

So, with our preconceptions well in place, this, their first full-length presents itself with some mystery. Setting out to use music to map the subconscious and reconcile the various bits of self, Codex Serafini have a relatively commonplace set of tools at their disposal. As the album opens so the voices are established – foreground saxophone, drifting vocals along with a guitar and rhythm section that steps between layered effects and flashes of surprising muscularity.

Sonically we are there in the heat shimmer of the cover’s barren landscape, an atopy of subdued but moody progressions, something bubbling beneath the surface. This growing mystery and tension is the driving force of the album’s first half, that the rhythm section, in particular, is pushing slowly into surprising post-rock crescendos. They might well claim to be extraterrestrial, in the repurposing of melancholic desert sax and psych rock to speak in tones of metallic sheen and grandeur, they move from understated and esoteric, through majestic and gentle unfolding into an outward ‘rock band’ maximalism.

foreground saxophone, drifting vocals along with a guitar and rhythm section that steps between layered effects and flashes of surprising muscularity…

Midway through the piece, Codex Serafini wrongfoots us with a short burst of free-festival psych, throwing some nods to the old-timey spacers, clearing the slate and readying our ears for their epic closer Animus In Decay. The greater edge that the previous track I Am Sorrow, I Am Lust brought carries through, the nested build and release of the more weighted and gnarly, as their drummer sets to work on a seventeen-minute destruction of the kit. This comes together in a nice chewy closing statement, drawing the curtains on what has been both an ecstatic freak-out and brooding darkness.

The Imprecation Of Anima is not an immediately accessible piece of music, there are points of reference in psych rock of course, and other genres both more drifty and more pointy, but from these starting points there is something esoteric in the method. Whether this approach is a strength or a limitation I am not sure – Codex Serafini seem to inhabit it quite confidently, although it may not speak more broadly to the people of Earth. The message though, if you can dig it, seems worth the trouble of tuning in to their frequency.

Label: Riot Season
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Harry Holmes