I was truly thrilled and aroused when I heard about the follow-up of 2019’s The Substance Of Perception, which I do consider one of that year’s highlights when it comes to the more ritualistic and darkened side of Ambient. That album was the official debut by Neraterræ, an outfit by Italian musician Alessio Antoni.
Recently, the sophomore full length got released, once again via mighty Cyclic Law (a great label that did release that higher mentioned debut too), this time in a partnership with the small UK-based label Liberation Through Hearing. Scenes From The Sublime was written and recorded in 2019 and 2020 by Alessio, who took care of production and engineering as well. The result was mastered by Kjetil Ottersen (an important name within the heavier Metal scene), and it is available via digital sources, evidently, as well as on compact disc. The latter actually is a limited four-panel digipack with intriguing artwork by India-born painter / photographer (and scientist!) Anirudh Acharya.
Just like The Substance Of Perception, about all compositions on Scenes From The Sublime feature assistance by well-known colleagues from the international (Ambient) scene. It makes this piece unique again, for all songs bring a unique combination of Alessio’s craftsmanship in combination with the typifying sounds of the other musicians involved. Besides, every single piece is inspired by famous (and lesser famous) paintings. And oh yeah, this sonic journey clocks more than one hour indeed!
I am not going to deep into the sources of inspiration, i.e. the paintings / painters that gave inspiration to Alessio in order to create his aural art. The web will give you all information, if interested. And besides, this is a review on an album for a Music webzine, and not a visual art magazine. But I checked them out (almost all of them; I did not know all of these paintings), and indeed they might inspire.
Anyway, Scenes From The Sublime (great title, seen the conceptual approach!) starts with The Last Abjurer (05:50), featuring German artist Phelios (Martin Stürtzer). And this easily brings me to the artwork, which color palette coordinates enormously with the painting that did inspire this song, being ‘AA72’ of Zdzislaw Beksinski (which actually goes for other works by this visual artist - and it returns with Doorway To The I - see further). This purely informative. The Last Abjurer is a very oppressive piece, based on several darkened layers of synth manipulation, and representing a martial attitude in some way. That martial approach gets created by the subtly injected drumbeats. The whole touches the border of down-earthed industrialism and does flirt with ceremonial ritualism. A great haunting piece to start this album with!
Next comes Fate Unveiled (06:20), a collab with Norwegian Industrial artist Dødsmaskin (not a stranger at all to Cyclic Law’s roster). At the beginning (and furthermore), it shows a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, by penetrating the ominous ‘melodies’ (whatever, what’s in a word) with wretched sounds of post-industrial noise. It is great to notice that this sonic travel seems to build up, then to fade away, and to resurrect over and over again. It is like a grand story canalized into just six minutes of dreamlike magnificence. And then, that final sequence, as if the end of the journey has been reached its final end, never to return. …like a vision of the hereafter indeed…
In Deafening Silence (06:30) indeed deafens and silences. The track features Phragments from Slovakian soil and continuously evolves. Silencing and reappearing waves of sounds paint an emptied wasteland of nothingness, claustrophobic in nature, asphyxiating in essence. A basic impression of nihilism and minimalism gets painfully destructed by the subtle yet rich levels of sonic elements that characterize this oppressive piece.
Thou, Daemon (05:33) has been recorded with assistance of Yann Hagimont (Cober Ord) and George Zafiriadis (Martyria) on vocals. It’s an invocation, or better: an e(x)vocation, solemn and adjuring, based on floating soundwaves, additional field recordings / noises (sometimes simply horrifying)), and obscuring, even ghastly vocal conjurations.
With its length of 10:40, Passion Domain is the lengthiest piece on Scenes From The Sublime. It’s created in partnership with Mount Shrine (Cesar Alexandre, Brazil) and truly overwhelms and enthralls. Like subdue to the elements of nature, the strength of the sea, resigning oneself to powers we cannot fight, and thoughts we cannot restrain, Passion Domain passionately (got it?) grows, slowly yet convinced. Eerie sounds are veiled in an impenetrable mist of both tranquility and wonder, of both admission and resignation. But don’t misjudge, for the oppression works spellbinding.
The Unfathomable Lives Again features Iranian artist Xerxes The Dark (Morego Dimmer) and, once more, Yann from Cober Ord. Long-stretched soundscapes with a very grim, even asphyxiating attitude, do drone and rumble, pierced with industrial details and a profound cinematic ambience. A pity that this nightmarish piece is so short (the shortest track with its duration of 03:33).
Also Doorway To The I (05:56) comes with assistance of a great artist from Persian soil, Mehdi Saleh aka Alphaxone. Gloomy and eerie layers of synths are adjunct into some creepy yet somehow introspective quest, while low-tuned basses work intoxicating, and while shivering noises work mesmerizing. Being haunting and, at the same time, beautiful in a contemplative and transcendental manner, Doorway To The I accompanies the listener into dimensions unexplored and enigmatic, both hideous and reliable; esoteric and conscious too.
I am a huge ‘fan’ of Surrealism when talking about visual art, and together with Belgian painter René Magritte, I think Salvador Dali is sublime. The Collapse Of Matter And Time (05:15) founds its inspirational sources in one of Dali’s best-known works, ‘The Disintegration Of The Persistence Of Memory’. This said… Tic-toc, like a heartbeat, guided by the ultimate metronome of time, The Collapse Of Matter And Time explores the extensive, boundless walls of time and space. Suffocative and ghostly / ghastly, unfathomable and surreal indeed, this organic mixture of Industrial and Drone Ambient simply defines the deep, devoted (or ‘deep-devoted’?) expressive character of Neraterræ.
Towards Oneiric Truths features Californian musician Leila Abdul-Rauf. This track (04:04) reminds us, once again, to the futility of existence, the art of wisdom (wisdom and knowledge indeed are a principal basement), and the expanse of spirituality. This might be the most enchanting piece, with those ethereal yet deep-dim melodies, these subtle samples of e.g. water, and the warm, ritualistic (and even hallucinogenic) voices at the background.
The album ends with the lengthy song Virtues Of The Dawn (08:40), a collaboration with Bulgaria’s Shrine (the solo-outfit of one Hristo Gospodinov). This piece is ultimately ominous and oppressive, so obscure and, at the same time, enlightening. Virtues Of The Dawn is an extremely hypnotic, dreamlike piece of floating yet powerful ambience, slowly and subtly, aesthetic and metaphoric. The monotonous mesmerism and the distorted sound lead to a levitative experience, trespassing the limitations of consciousness and, at the same time, the integrity of self-awareness.
Scenes From The Sublime is another masterpiece, a sonic voyage though majestic, even magical and mystic dimensions. It brings darkened and mysterious Droning Ambient with a cinematic character once more, continuing the journey where The Substance Of Perception came to its end. Over and over again, it reveals its many hidden secrets, permanently teasing, continuously growing and creating wonder and admiration for the abyssal areas beyond superficiality.