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Here we have another one of Senmuth's primarily ethnic albums. For those who haven't heard this music before, Senmuth is a one man project that spans a great many genres, and an even greater many albums. With alot of these albums starting to sound the same to me, it becomes all the more important to keep a close eye on things, to figure out which ones are better and worse than the others. With 'Nature,' we are given an album that Senmuth has written several times before. The electro/industrial, ethnic sonic meditation route has been done quite a bit, and while some releases have really succeeded at giving a cohesive and atmospheric experience, there is absolutely nothing to 'Nature' that hasn't been done to death already.
The music here is filled to the brim with sitars and jungle ambience. There are some sections where the crushing guitar distortion comes in, but what worth the album has rests entirely on the more acoustic sections. While I have appreciated Senmuth's industrial metal work in the past, it doesn't seem to work with the more meditative mood here. There are a few pleasant sections on 'Nature,' but alot of it just amounts to listless meandering by Senmuth with a guitar.
The fact of the matter is; 'Nature' is not a painful album to listen. It is however, not enjoyable. While the music on 'Nature' seems to satisfy the goal that Senmuth set out for it (an ambient piece), there has been so much stuff that the band has released that far surpasses the generally forgettable material here. I am a fan of quite alot of Senmuth's work, but this doesn't meet the standard.
Senmuth has become well known and well established in the underground experimental/tribal/ethno scene quite recently due to the massive amount of material this guy puts out like locusts. While most people stick to his more organized and known works such as 2009's "Neocortex" or his original 2004 "Cognitive Discord" mostly due to the fact that with such a gigantic discography, which is still growing almost in a two month interval, there is little to no perspective to explore the works of Senmuth thoroughly. It has become a task to collectionists and people interested in projects like this to filter out the really amazing good work and criticize the more generic outlets being enlisted on various discography sites. With such a vast collection, one would normally not know where to start, but in his case, it doesn't matter, since his albums might differ more or less, but the typical Senmuth trademark is always there. Fusing too many styles together widens the rift between followings, while at the same time draws attention and interest, but as aforementioned it is near impossible to get deep insight into each and every album that is presented, so let's have a look at 2007's "Nature".
With a very simple, yet ambiguous name such as "Nature", Senmuth prepares for an exploration through a new concept, trying to capture his feelings on a "visit to Dombai" as he puts it. After listening to his "Morning Depth of the Sunlight & the Emptiness Inside Reason", which was an exploration in acoustic, this album was the next on my list. It offers the mix between techno and doom, which is one of the styles Senmuth adheres to most often, fusing it with a lot of ethnic influence, depending on where his natural interests or impressions left him. On most albums he manages this concept well, stressing the fact that he can not work too long on a certain theme or idea, or it bores him. Well, "Nature" might be a step toward the classical style I've been listening for about 20 albums, but still to this point "Nature" seems to be one of his weakest endeavours until now. It's hard to distinguish the mass of music after only listening to max. two times to each album, but the sound and composition on "Nature" feels generic and leaves a lot of room for the "filler disease" that most artists succumb to at one point or the other. Many melodies such as the reoccurring theme in "Alibek Falls" resemble cheerful folkish sounding tunes, that create a "tourist" type of atmosphere, quite similar to the impression the artist might have had on his journey. "Alania", however, is a very well done and strong piece, using accordion tunes, much like his very early work and other classics, such as "Syn Kamnya" on the Neocortex release. These playful, yet rhythmic tones create a wonderful atmosphere and a great insight of the creator's mood when writing this. While techno and industrial sounding influences overlap each other in Senmuth's music, the industrial parts dominate this release more, even though some parts of this album are dull and unpolished and act as filler material, i.e. "Crystal Water of the Ice Stream", which is a soft jingle with some electric drums in the background and featuring an annoying sound of changing chords on an electric guitar. "Singing of birds under Stars" features more of this jingle-jangle, but progresses in more mature way, yet hardly reaching any climax or inducing any at all energy. It's more like a very gentle and harmless background elevator music.
What can be said in summary about this album is that it's strange, like most (if not all) Senmuth albums, combining a lot of elements out of many genres, a form of modern Russian avant-garde, if you wish. Yet sadly, this album is too inoffensive and bland, with only a few highlights to stand out and represent Senmuth's true potential.
(written for TMO and the metal archives on 3.02.2010)
Beauty. It's a highly subjective thing, yes? One man considers the woman in the magazine with a tiny dress to possess beauty. Another man claims his son's smile is what he finds beautiful. Yet another probably thinks the mountains and trees and birds and all those sorts of things are beautiful, though he's also probably got a bedroom full of anti-logging propaganda and various Pink Floyd albums on permanent repeat. The point I'm getting at here is that everyone has different conceptions of beauty, and everyone is going to have a different opinion of what they perceive. Like physical beauty, musical beauty is also subject to the listener's feelings. My feelings on this? It's an incredible piece of work.
Now, it's no secret that I'm a raving fanatic of anything strange or "different" from traditional music. Such things most likely disgust the average person, but to me (and many others) experimentation in music is something that allows a musician's creativity to thrive and compel. Senmuth's album "Nature" does just that - it expands till it puts the listener in a state of near-trance through exceptional musicianship. This is by no means metal, however; it's more similar to a combination of ethnic music, Trance, EBM, and ambient with a few metallic solos here and there. Even the solos are highly influenced by ethnic music, though they're not exactly folk metal. Rather, they're soulful tunes with exotic melodies that try to integrate with the rest of the music.
One could say that the entire point of Senmuth's music is to experiment with just how much you can smoothly blend in one album, or even one song. The tracks here certainly prove that with powerful and memorable numbers with a personality all of their own. "Alania" is one of Senmuth's most memorable songs. It's loud, fun and bombastic without being stupid - the usage of accordions with trance inspired keyboards and some very subtle guitar is done in such a way that it feels more like some sort of soundtrack to a spy mission in a foreign land rather than a bunch of idiots in "battle paint" jumping around in the woods. The accordion melody feels grandiose while being accented by the echoing quality of the accordion's tone.
Some other highlights of this that simply MUST be mentioned are "Amanauz" with it's psychedelic quality, accented by Senmuth's distant, echo-laden voice reciting chants. He sounds like he's worshipping at the bottom of a waterfall, rather than recording his voice in a gymnasium. It also features a really powerful solo section at the end and some bouncy jew's harp playing. "Tribal Rivers And Roads of Spirits" is, put bluntly, racing music. Play this thing in your car when it's raining a little and you're on the highway, it's great fun! Hell, it even fits the nature mood of the album, conjuring up images of being swept down the rapids in a dense forest.
Indeed, all the tracks on this album are keepers in the sense that they experiment and differentiate without sacrificing memorability at all. What's more, their emotion is completely top-notch. Aided by Senmuth's incredibly skilled production job (he's also an audio engineer, you see), all the instruments come through crystal clear. As simple a job as that sounds, theres a LOT of instruments - sitars, electric guitars, a jew's harp... Some are bound to be a bit confused after the first few listens to this just due to the massive depth of everything. Careful listening and a desire to understand this piece are what allows it to be fully appreciated. There are so many layers of sound making so many beautiful melodies and soundscapes that every time I listen to this I feel almost transported to a misty, grey-skyed area of the wilderness full of mountains and lakes and every other nature cliché in the book - but it works. Everything on here works, even the oh-so-slight hip-hop tendencies that sneak in on "Crystal Water of the Ice Stream". It all progresses logically and wants to be accepted, but also wants to be different - and it succeeds.
Really, save for a slightly odd track transition here or there, maybe a few instances of an instrument making one note a tiny bit weird, I find this to be a great release worthy of MUCH more attention. This is one of Senmuth's true crowning achievements in terms of beauty and staying power, as well as atmosphere and representing his skill as a musician. It doesn't even sound like anything else, it has a sound all of it's own. Full of some of the coolest moments in Senmuth's 2007 career, this is easily one of the "must-hear" albums in Senmuth's ever expanding discography. Highly recommended, especially if you plan on playing the entire thing at once.
Highlights: Alania, Alibek Falls, Amanauz, Singing Of Birds Under Stars, Tribal Rivers And Roads Of Spirits