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The sound of musical instruments is sometimes mentally linked to the essence of natural phenomena – for instance, some keyboard hues may invoke in one the essence of starry skies, blastbeats can be mentally linked with hard falling snow or rain, guitars with the wind or even with the view of the mountains. It is not so much that the sound resembles the physical manifestation of these phenomena (though it can well happen), but rather it invokes the pure essence of them (depending to what one believes, either their objective true nature or the subjective true image of them, the one that exists inside the listener’s being). Whatever the case, the particular sounds act as symbols which merge the listener with an imaginative being experiencing firsthand the phenomena in question.
Black metal is a music genre that excels in effectively using musical instrument sound in such a way, especially its particular niche sub-genre which is most usually associated with Paysage D’Hiver: Hazy, grainy sound, walls of noise, a storm of almost indistinguishable guitars and keyboards, all striving towards the swelling of atmosphere, leaving structured narration aside. Impression is the key factor here, and the encapsulation of the listener inside a cocoon-like micro-environment a possible effect.
The Dutch Kaffaljidhma’s first two demos (laconically named “I” & “I”) is an prime example of such image-crafting music. Keyboards, the single most expressive instrument in their music, soar above the hail-ridden ground, hovering ethereally, like Aurora Borealis drifting beyond the earth surface weather’s grasp, emitting pure tranquility and otherworldly beauty. The hail-ridden ground itself consists of barriers of mechanically repetitive (there is even a synthpop, Blue Monday-esque rhythm on the drum-machine pattern of the amazingly titled “As Exalted Djinn Embellished the Heavens With Crests of Fire”), mostly furious drumming evoking ferocious winds along with heavy snowfall. Somewhere in between stand the subtle (quite elusive, semi-substantial) guitar layers acting as mortar between sky and the ground.
There are hardly any riffs in the traditional sense of the word in here. This is ambience floating upon the wanderer’s path, a path ravaged by snow and trees. The vocals are also floating howling entities fading in and out of existence with hardly a message to convey – just a notion of the fleeting, a symbol of their own elusiveness. The two compositions are not of traditional structure – it seems that they are not permeated by a linear sense of time. They do have duration, but their content is like a continuous seamless surface, untroubled by time. It’s like gazing upon a landscape, again and again, absorbing it from all angles, wandering in it, but with no purpose and no destination in sight. Meditative is one of the bandcamp’s tags, and I wholeheartedly agree with it. Meditation upon the ancient skies of Babylon I would add, for “Near-Eastern Stellar Folktales” is one of the band’s lyrical themes – unfortunately no lyrics are available, leaving just the flamboyantly excellent titles and the masterfully elegant cover art to act as the band’s lore.