V/A – Metempsychosis

The third dark ambient/experimental compilation from Eighth Tower Records keeps up the style of the previous two, and several artists also re-appear for an encore. Just as the first two installments in the series had their own themes – with Superspectrum focusing on the thought of UFOlogist John Keele and The Great Architect exploring Gnosticism – so has Metempsychosis.

“Metempsychosis” is the Greek term for the transmigration of souls, and along with the download package comes a brief but substantial essay by Daniel Tarr entitled “The Concept of Metempsychosis in Early Greek Philosophy”. The essay covers, among many other things, Pythagoras’ Plato’s, and Empedocles’ thoughts on the matter of the soul surviving death to reincarnate elsewhere, and also touches upon some of the thornier philosophical issues connected to this idea. These include questions such as that of continuity – if the soul has no memories from previous lives, exactly what is reincarnated and in which sense is it the same soul? The bibliography at the end of the essay should suffice to come to grips with at least the basics of the issue.

Being a compilation album, and not a book, there is of course also music on this release. The lineup this time around is extremely strong, probably the best one yet. If there’s an overall sonic theme, it may well be chimes, since most tracks include one form of this sound or another. It is not always clear from the song titles how they connect to the album concept, but as usual a compilation album theme is meant to serve more as a point of departure or inspiration, rather than a one-size-fits-all straight jacket, so there is no reason to get stuck on that particular issue.

After opening strong with a loudly industrial ambient track by Abbatoir & Satori, “Prometeo Knowledge”, Metempsychosis keeps knocking the spiritual baseballs out of the park for the duration of the album. A live extract by Phurpa showcases these Russian Bön-devotees from their very best side, with an extremely powerful salvo of Tibetan instrumentation and supernaturally deep throat singing.

Persian Xerxes the Dark delivers as always, as “Stupefaction” recalls monastic cells carved out of the living rock in deep mountains. Dreamy, gloomy and hidden in shadows. Sonologyst goes for a louder sound, with a plethora of sources, as “Nocturnal Anomalies” summons the transmigrating ghosts of the ancients, wailing and possibly using their own discarded skeletal remains as percussion. Pooyar offers a slightly more traditional dark ambient track, with thick droning layers of synths, field recordings and chiming noises. Tribes of Medusa goes for a combination of very traditional drones, working in tandem with deep Timpani percussion, slowly and ominously constructing a song for restless sleep and anxiety tinged relaxation. Simply put, there are no weak compositions here, just consistent quality.

Empty Chalice, which close the compilation out with “Muffled Scream” has, with it’s deep synth pad, looming blackness and echoing noises, a sound that somehow sums up the general tone of Eighth Tower Records. If there is such a thing as “hard dark ambient”, Eighth Tower is the premiere exponent thereof at the moment, and if there isn’t, they are about to create it. At 7 Euros, this download isn’t free, but once again: what in life, this one or the next, truly is?

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