Akira Rabelais Akira RabelaisCaduceus
Although he has released minor works over the past few years (an audio DVD, field recordings, and an extremely limited vinyl), the truth is that Akira Rabelais hasn’t made a new album since 2004, when he released one of the hidden gems of modern experimental music which held the emotional spirit level high, “Spellewauerynsherde”.This was the result of taking a collection of Icelandic choral music found by accident on some cassette recordings (originally composed centuries ago, perhaps in medieval times), and sending them through his self-designed software. The software, Argeïphontes Lyre , is a type of filter that modifies the texture of the introduced sound, giving it an ethereal quality, almost transparent. “Spellewauerynsherde” shines in its coherence within the software design as well as its fascinating application, in that it sounds nothing like a machine, but nearer to an angel. But, above all, it’s fascinating to find a way to produce music that veers away from ambient post-dance and from clicks’n’cuts, and still maintains a distance from the practice of fusing machines and music theory.
Six years later comes “Caduceus”, which is very much in the same vain but turns in the “ambient” and “neoclassical” for the other more fashionable labels of “noise” and “space.” The album is scruffy, like a kiss accompanied by a beard, and listening to it isn’t all that comfortable. Even in its most delicate moments, the sound seems possessed by demons doused in sulfur. His composition leaves no doubts, as it’s only one guitar manipulated by a computer. It’s not clear, however, if it’s through Argeïophontes Lyre or the more traditional pedals and plug-ins in the style of Fennesz , radio waves in the modulated frequencies or broadband. There is the pollution of static beneath it all, which is sometimes subtle, and sometimes not, depending on the moment, and improvisations on guitar that can add to the noise or calm the waters. With this palette of sensations, concise yet malleable if in the right hands, the Texas-born composer (despite his first name reminding one of post-apocalyptic Japan, and his last name coming from French Baroque Literature) releases another album in which as you listen, you feel as though you are tired and can’t sleep, or you are sleeping but sleepwalking through hallways, tripping and falling over objects. The album is erratic yet calm, innerving yet soul–soothing, always taking into account Rabelais’ own moods, trapped between reality and limbo.
If “Spellewauerynsherde” was like a Sigur Rós album performed by a band of ghosts, “Caduceus” could be the soundtrack to a Guy Maddin film, as it blurs the lines between memory and the present, dreams and palpable reality. The artwork, gray and sepia, blurry with stains where the light’s burned it, and the curved figures of a surrealist painting, help to place you in a sound context of complete physical abstraction. The text helps, as the lines speak of “time occupied by the same nature of mind, symbolism or a thing, a radiance of observation…” The song titles too, which when read one after another make up verses alluding to remote places; the kind that you can only access through your mind’s eye: “Seduced By Silence”, “On The Little In-Betweens”, “Then The Substanceless Blue”, “Where To Let Our Scars Fall In Love”, “With The Gift Of Your Small Breath”, “And The Permanence Of Smoke And Stars”, “Night Dances Through Heaven’s Black Amnesia”, etc.
It can’t be listened to without a poetic edge. “Caduceus” refers to (quoted from the essential “Dictionary of Symbols” by Juan Eduardo Cirlot ) “a rod entwined with two snakes, which at the top has two small wings or a winged helmet [...] The Romans used the caduceus as a symbol of moral equilibrium and good behavior, as the staff expresses power; the two serpents, wisdom; the wings, diligence.” And therefore, the fragility and turbulence of sound, just as the meaning of the title, refers to bygone mysteries, abandoned myths, journeys into the realm of the dead, an exploration of the ephemeral and inherent human nature and how music can awaken our divine side, our light and intelligence. And if you find this allegorical explanation unnecessary, listen without the footnotes. “Caduceus” will still be an album of incredible beauty and intoxicating sounds.