Time is one of the few elements that all music shares. Whether it’s a pop song or symphony, or any anything else, the listener understands the music follows a structure designed to engage with your brain for a fixed period of time. Within that window, the musician has your attention, and what they choose to do with that opportunity unfolds in whatever manner they wish. The only risk is whether or not the listener remains interested.
Whilst the recording process can pull sounds together in endless paths, in some ways, improvising is musics purest form. A player or group, perhaps with barely even a discussion, might just play, and respond to what they hear in the moment. Improvisation, on these terms is like a distilled version of nature, of actual existence, and of the universe.
archeus is a newly formed trio that carves out a particularly heady form of this idea, and whilst it’s never any less than totally bizarre, it’s had OBLADADA completely engrossed. Consisting of Shizuo Uchida (bass), TOMO (hurdy gurdy) and Keiko Higuchi (voice, percussion, trombone), the Japanese ensemble draw you into an engrossing and baffling 50 minute stew.
Both the group and album‘s title archeus refer to a term used in alchemy, generally to refer to the lowest and most dense aspect of the astral plane which presides over the growth and continuation of all living beings. Perhaps it is easiest to think of this as some fundamental form of energy that binds our collective universe.
archeus was recorded during a global pandemic, but arrived via our speakers as the world closely monitors the hideousness unleashed in Ukraine. That knot in the stomach as we consider the grim reality countless souls face in several places around the world. A world swept up in greed, the thirst for power and all sorts of man-made bollocks, and a failure in fundamental respect.
Whilst that seems like a huge expectation to pin on this album, the 4 extended tracks feel like time spent in a far more accurate place in existence. 3 human brains honestly mapping out movements in sound that are more like chemical reactions or the soundtrack to stars being born in some wild nebula.
Nothing is sugar coated here, Where The Waving Nerves Go builds into a see sawing maelstrom, A Passionate Karma gathers like dew drops on dawn spiders webs. Basked In The Black Sunshine is a ceremony that eventually births wild apocalyptic visions. Readings From A Dream-book feels like a slow motion pan over an ancient landscape.
Despite that sense that everything is raw, archeus beams with a form of honesty, purity and beauty that has been an amazing counterpoint to strange and dark times.
A wild but somehow cathartic ride.
archeus is out now on haang niap Records, available on cd and cassette here