PYUR | Oratorio For the Underworld
Subtext Recordings (CD/DL)
Enter the PYUR (Sophie Schnell’s) ‘upside-down’ in Oratorio For the Underworld. If it seems pretentious to summon the ‘oratorio’ title (joining the most popular: Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, and Haydn’s The Creation) there may be, for the listener, an apprehension of grandiose expectations. However, listeners are in for a contemporary dark-electro masterpiece when engaging this brilliant homage to ‘inward archaeology.’
When surveying personal relics, one’s family and upbringing mold the internally-focused ‘archaeologist.’ From their family practices in Bavarian shamanism, PYUR may have learned the power to wield music as something more than entertainment. A highly accomplished multidisciplinary artist, this sophomore album is fine-tuned to perfection. Every moment is flush with lavish sound design. Art-house, trance, minimal techno, ambient, neoclassical, melodic noise, experimental — all fail as attempts to qualify this work as a whole. Influences of dub and trap are sparse but coherent. Individual tracks may veer more in one direction than another. Mostly though, each track unravels to reveal elements within several if not all of these classifications.
Sparse but serene vocal work is present in several tracks but there are certainly no flamboyant choral voices. The totality of each composition is a testament to the concentration paid in arranging each instrumental ‘voice.’ Manta Ride – the foremost promoted track and one of the more accessible ones on the album – contains these sweeping vocals. Towers of Nebula and Rose Born bring thunderous bass notes and highlight industrial noise effects. Even in the hyper-cyber, there is an organic linear emphasis. When Cheperer plays, the quiet space dominates. The album takes a cooler turn until the blazing Sun On Earth.
The experiential and personal presentation of Oratorio For the Underworld is a fine treasure worthy of two years work in near isolation via etopia’s Spanish ‘glass castle studio.’ The Subtext Recordings press release closes with this quote,“Tracing reflections that float in the pool: the water is lost in all images. Two skies hold glass billboards.” The cognition of the host material becomes diminished in the value of what it is reflecting. A feedback loop of sky. But this is a navigation of the underworld; the sky is but a memory here. The ephemeral and airy synths that flood the album are like faint pleasant dreams tinged with minor horror; the kind you wake up from wanting to tell someone about but can’t quite remember.