If there is one sub-genre within the alternative music arena which I have recently gotten into, and have been completely fascinated with, it is the genre of drone. Given its title, it doesn’t leave much to the imagination on what would be expected in such a field. It conjures up long drawn-out monotonous lengths of noise, which may well be aimless, directionless and will ultimately leave the listener miserable and bored in equal measure.
Thankfully, to my surprise, it’s far deeper than that, and actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is it can impose such surreal feelings, and bring on heightened responses to even the quietest of moments, where nothing more than the wind, for instance, can be used to create an aural environment to dramatic display.
In all my years of alternative and heavy music, I’ve always been guided by large crunchy sounds. Breakneck guitar, blast beat drumming, and guttural screaming frontmen and women were what I thought it was all about. That, for me, was where the intensity lay, in the wall of sound, the harder and faster, the better.
For my quieter moods, I always turned towards more ambient music, so to find a whole genre that is both ambient, but intense, while at times utterly menacing without all those aforementioned heavy dynamics, has been a bit of revelation.
In part, I put this growth down to the wider world that The Sleeping Shaman has allowed me, through the reviewing experience along with getting out and seeing a lot of live performances. It has also allowed for a lot of support acts to come in and open my eyes further too, like Fågelle supporting BIGIBRAVE, where everything was a complete feast for the senses.
With all of this in mind, when the opportunity came up to take on the newest S A R R A M release, Pàthei Màthos, I lapped at the chance, and I’m so glad I did. S A R R A M is the guise that Italian mastermind Valerio Marras works under, and with this, his fourth full release, he really has created a sonic masterpiece. Working predominantly as a solo project, the concepts, and soundscapes are truly magical.
If you want to be taken on a sonic adventure filled with highs and lows that will challenge your very subconscious, then this is the album for you…
Pàthei Màthos is a sublime rollercoaster for the senses. It will take you on a journey if you allow it, and I’m certain that through the experience, you will formulate in your mind stories, or scenarios, with the soundtrack guiding your inner imagination all the time. Such is the beauty of this work, that even without knowing any context for each track, you can make your own dreams come to life, and be taken away euphorically.
To draw any real comparison with other artists is futile, yes, certain tracks will be reminiscent of other musicians, but again, I personally wouldn’t say that S A R R A M sounds like anyone else. Track eight, Long Live, Farewell does, especially at its climax, have me thinking of Mono, especially the guitar playing. It really parallels their fantastical sound, but I doubt that is intentional, just a wonderful little coincidence maybe?
Again, on track five, Korimai, one of the few tracks that feature any sort of vocal, I see traces of both Fågelle, and Björk, and this is through the wonderfully ethereal performance of Dalila Kayros. By far though, the pinnacle of vocal beauty for me comes on the title track, Pàthei Màthos, and is down to the absolutely intoxicating Lili Refrain, who gives such an emotionally charged performance that its impossible to turn away.
Throughout these sonic drone soundscapes, the juxtaposition between highs and lows is incredible, and just when you think you have heard it all, something new, and different will pop up to prove otherwise. There is a beautiful electronic cello that is utilised throughout Lotus Quest courtesy of Tobias Vethake, aka Sicker Man, the likes of which just elevate the piece to a catastrophic high. The slow strokes with the bow express a beautiful sorrow, a pained tug at the heartstrings for sure. Tracks such as Calma also provide a more soothing element, and any anxiety or stress from the previous tracks just seem to fall away over the three minutes it plays for.
Again, as is the case with a lot of drone music, it’s hard to put into words just how to experience the work without saying check it out for yourself and take what you can from it. Some drone that I have heard, I’ve really struggled to put into words as it’s an experience, an individual experience, and what I would take isn’t necessarily what someone else would get from it. What I will say though, is this…
If you want to be taken on a sonic adventure filled with highs and lows that will challenge your very subconscious, then this is the album for you. If you want something that will elevate your senses, and open your inner self, then embrace this album, as it will set your imagination on fire.
Scribed by: Lee Beamish