Anunnaki, Canadians Dave Read (Moths & Locusts) and Arlen Thompson (Wolf Parade), describe themselves as “wide-eyed sonic archeologists on a quest for truths both musical and spiritual”. Indeed, over the space of six previous albums they have taken us on a number of cosmic, temporal and metaphysical journeys… each one having it own imprimatur and atmosphere. These have tended to involve long and labyrinthine odysseys across unusual sonic landscapes which are generally challenging, but ultimately rewarding.
‘Martyr of Alexandria’ is no exception to this, while being as different again as their previous offerings… and perhaps here on the more accessible side of their oeuvre. To listen to an Anunnaki recording requires you to get right into it and Dave Read certainly helped me to do this when he reached out with this release:
Imagine a cross between Motorhead’s Lemmy & Philthy Animal and Kraftwerk’s Ralf & Florian, together channeling the kozmik vision of Alice Coltrane through Sunn O)))’s amplifiers, and with influences varying from Klaus Schulze to Acid Mothers Temple, from New Age to Black Metal, Madame Blavatsky to Thich Nhat Hanh, and you’ll start to get the idea of what Anunnaki is all about.
To say that this piqued my interest is a massive understatement. Of course all the musical references here fell into place, but also the references to Blavktsky’s Theosophy and Thich That Hahn’s Buddhist activist suggested an attitude the was fearless, leftfield and full-on, while also being peaceful and thoughtful…
…and so it proves here through three tracks of increasing length (~5, ~10, ~15 minutes) going from the punchy rock wig out to the long and etherial drone-meditation… a journey that seems to gradually deconstruct the rational into a something far more diaphanous.
The album opens with ‘The Golden Gate of the Sun’ a truly manic and uplifting track with a bass line that took me straight back to the early Dead Kennedys or, of course, Motörhead… a punk aesthetic with a crackling layer of noise that really hits you between the eyes… the main aim here I think is power… it’s a track that invites you to be in awe… and the way this absolutely pummels your brain and not so much asks you to step through the Golden Gate of the Sun as pushes you through like cheese through a grater.
Now that we have been suitably prepared ‘Cyril, The Fanatic’ takes us on a far more cerebral trip full of intrigue and political infighting. For the full details of the story, check out the release notes on the above bandcamp page… from this you can really see how the band integrate it into their music.
For the first four of so minutes this is a relatively ambient number with drones and embedded spoken word adding to the sense of mystery… however then Thompson’s drums hit the thrusters, and the electronics give way to Read’s hyperactive and deeply affecting guitar work which feel like they’re digging an extra groove in your psyche… lathe-cutting your brain indelibly… the momentum has been fully gained now and it feels as if the track is taking on a life of its own as it powers forward on its fuzz thrusters… it’s dark and you kinda want to be there!
After that the album closes with ‘The Cries of Hypatia’, which has the feeling of a sort of ‘drone requiem’… the marking of the final moments and death of Cyril, the eponym of the album. It is like we are slowly being taken through the death throes into some netherworld until, around a third of the way through, a funeral drum emerges from the drone and takes us into the next part of the story. We are now in some sort of interstitial realm… hovering between life and death… the ritualistic nature of the music drawing us there… it is now very different from what has gone before… ambient.. empty… in someways harrowing. At this stage the repetitive nature draws you in until the requiem comes in with a choral effect that takes the music onto a grand stage as the whole thing opens out… it is a light at the end of the tunnel moment as the hope and optimism flood in and we witness a gradual expansion of the hitherto claustrophobic story into something delicate and wonderful… the sound stretched gossamer-like over our expanded horizons until settling into a final minute of gentle ascent into nothingness… and silence!
This is a thirty minute trip that takes you on quite a journey… and while the duo have used Cyril the Martyr as their inspiration, this music evokes feeling and ideas that are far more universal. As such the existential nature of this album should not be underestimated, and is yet another thought provoking and satisfying addition to Anunnaki’s already impressive output.
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