Sentience and sapience are two terms that are often confused… Sentience means the ability to feel things, the ability to perceive things… Sapience means the ability to think, the capacity for intelligence, the ability to acquire wisdom.
It is important for me to understand the two words of the title of this album before proceeding to write about it, because they are key for me to get my head around what for me is one of the most beautiful albums of the year. An album whose beauty is by no means uniform… at one moment an icy and dislocated beauty… while at another a chilled out warm beauty… and then at other times a terrible and frightening beauty. But all the way through is this seductive charm, a siren drawing you towards the visions that this affecting music raises in the mind… whether they be through sentience or sapience, that is a constant.
According to the Press Release:
A soundtrack for gutted metropolises, virtual sanctuaries and utopian enclaves, ‘Sentience & Sapience’ is a seamless, psychedelic journey through possible near futures in the age of Artificial Intelligence…an album for bewildered Homo sapiens contending with intelligent machines in the shadow of the singularity.
Indeed, such is the nature of this album that I am really torn about how to review it… do I go down my usual route of just listening to it and mediating my feelings through my words… or do I delve down into the rabbit hole of understanding the writings of Ray Kurzweil, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson… on whose ideas this album draws much of its inspiration? I am already forming an opinion of how this music is making me feel… but I also want to know more about the well from which is was drawn.
For the sake of sticking with what I know I’m going to veer towards the sentience to start with knowing that I can veer towards the other side when I can… crossing the boundary that artificial intelligence has not yet traversed but, in this look into the near future, may very soon do so.
For me then this seventeen track album is like a series of fragments of our possible future projected back to us. But it is not the sledgehammer of ‘this is what it’s like when the machines take over’, it is far more subtle than that… subtle because not all of these fragments feel dystopian. ‘Rendering Eden’, for instance feels uplifting and positive with its bright melodies and light synths. There is a feeling of being in a Japanese cherry orchard, the real and the virtual being played off through small eddys in the fabric of the music.
Elsewhere there is dark drama with the bleak pulses of ‘Surface Dwellers’, while the album is punctuated with human voices which either clarify or muddy the waters depending on your position, such as in ‘Theosis/ Übermench’. For me though it is the sheer unpredictability of this set that takes it beyond what I normally listen to… because not only is this album eclectic in sound, it is also eclectic in thought. One minute you find yourself in some sort of future urban soundtracked dystopia (‘Predictive Thought’), then the next you are in a paradisiacal raga (‘Dust Simian’).
This is definitely an album that you have to listen to yourself… and listen to it closely.
But…BUT…it is not the sort of serious album that is worthy and inaccessible…it is a series of sonic soundscapes that will transfigure themselves in your mind in a manner that feels as if you are wearing some sort of cognisance cans… because you can feel the topology of these sounds forming ideas in your mind… perhaps bringing back together the elements of sentience and sapience as they are broadcast to you from the future.
For me, then, this is a concept album that works on all sorts of levels and through a number of dimensions, it is one of the most deeply affecting pieces of music that I have heard in a long time and… and this is the most exciting thing for me… is something that I have only just started scratching the surface of. I am convinced that there is something very deep going on here and whether I want to be in the future vision that it portrays is at this moment moot… because in the here and now these fragmented projections inspire me to both think and feel.
‘Sentience and Sapience’ is available now from Touch Sensitive Records here.
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