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Profound Animist Art - 90%

heimlich, October 4th, 2012

Cicadan is a solo Australian act, and Mother is its debut 38 minute release (available only in digital form, and listenable in full on Bandcamp). It is a powerful voyage into the heart of the Australian wilds, and fearlessly explores the seemingly irresolvable tension between mechanized modernity and timeless nature.

Moving between ambient, acoustic, doom/black metal, drone, and almost progressive feels, Mother is first and foremost an impressive testament to the artist’s multi-instrumental gifts and talents for evocative arrangements. Because on this release form mirrors content, and it succeeds admirably in transporting the listener into the liquid solidity of Nature.

As an expatriate Australian I believe I am uniquely equipped to review this release; I have to admit that it made me terribly homesick for the unforgiving land of my birth. Both the music and the creative use of naturalistic samples evoke the harsh, flinty, yet also verdant Australian environment. The baking sun, the vast blue sky, the endless hordes of industrious (especially insect and avian) organisms. The sense of desolation that conceals fervent and frantic life lived in endless multiplicities.

In a sense Mother takes its point of departure from animistic black metal outfits from the Pacific North West of the United States, bands like Fauna. But where the latter evoke the damp, mossy Cascadian wilds – all grey and green and rot – Cicadan’s inspiration comes from the brittle gum trees, the grinding drone of the cicadas, the lick of bush fires that destroy and rejuvenate.

Indeed, in many respects this release throws down the gauntlet to the many extreme bands that today seek to negotiation the contradictions of modernity and nature in their art. The dry, searing heat; the grim, flinty fertility – these and more faces of the Australian land reach forth from every note of music on this release. It’s a tremendous homage, if a rather grim one.

The instrumentation, as I have already alluded, is just wonderful. The acoustic guitar sounds rich and full and alive; the drums are pummeling and cruel. The electric guitars have inexorability and heft, and more than succeed in evoking the great stony landscapes, the broken teeth of an ancient continent.

The vocals – largely in the form of rasps, shrieks, and whispers, but also with some very tasteful clean singing – serve as the vehicle for Zen-like lyrics that evoke the timelessness and the fleetingness of the natural world all at once. They turn reluctantly from the reflecting pool of thunderstorms and sunburned birdsong into the grim face of humanity’s destructive blindness; its technological obsession, its unthinking passion for reducing vast complexities into barren psychological and ecological wastelands.

Mother’s capacity to roam from the textural, to the punishing, to the foreboding and hypogogic, is simply remarkable. It carries us on a journey that spans time as much as space; there is something tremendously ancient in this music, ancient, intimidating, yet tremendously vulnerable and in desperately in need of shelter. The sensitivity with which the performances have been captured is highly refined.

Indeed, in a way this release reminds me of early and mid-period The Third and the Mortal; another band that voyages deep into the tectonic dreaming of humanity communing with nature. Admittedly, Cicadan are harsher, more extreme, less pretty; but like The Third and the Mortal, they’re both immediately accessible (as extreme music goes!) and highly original.

The fact that this is a solo project is all the more astounding. Cicadan are onto something extremely promising. Their quest for the sacredness of the immanent is already yielding rich rewards. This is the kind of release that portends amazing things to come.