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INTERVIEW: Memnon Sa
Patrick Clarke , July 12th, 2017 09:59

Memnon Sa have ditched the guitars and switched their thematic sights on sci-fi with new album Lemurian Dawn. We're premiering the first track along with a Q+A below

When last we heard from Memnon Sa on 2015's much-lauded Citadel, the project was a doom-laden trip into a murky, ancient-feeling world, a guitar-driven, monolithic piece of singular atmospheric heft.

This year comes its follow-up, Lemurian Dawn, released via Aurora Borealis (home to the Haxan Cloak, Grumbling Fur and more), on which creative force Misha Hering has made the bold decision to drop the guitars almost entirely.

In their place is introduced an array of analogue synthesisers, ancient instruments, strings and throat singing, lessening the influence of heavy doom in favour of a sound heavily influenced by science fiction.

That said, Lemurian Dawn is not an entire departure, with Hering carrying over and expanding upon his abilities to craft a swarming, all-encompassing sense of the sublimely atmospheric.

Below we're premiering the first taste of the record, 'Healing Chamber', as well as a Q+A with Hering where he takes us through the story behind this seismic shift.

Lemurian Dawn took over a month and a half to record, why was it such a lengthy process, and what was that process like?

To be honest, it took about a year to record! It wasn't the usual, book in two weeks and make a record in a studio situation. By trade I am a recording engineer, and run a studio called Holy Mountain in London. Recording, and then mixing Lemurian Dawn was something that I did whenever I could, but the last two years have been, thankfully, very busy at the studio, and downtime was really limited. The result was that five tracks took a year! It's the most ridiculous timeline imaginable, and the songs went through many iterations that only Andrew (from Aurora Borealis) and I ever heard. I'm happy with the final product, but next time around I'm setting myself a very concise deadline to stick too. It became a snake biting his own tail situation.

Was there any particular reason or event that prompted you to change your instrumental approach so dramatically?

Instrumentation wise, the big shift was me realising I wasn't a good enough, or maybe intuitive enough guitar player. I feel that my first LP, Citadel, really suffered from some clunky, uninspired playing on my behalf, and the best moments came from other forms of instrumentation and arrangements. It was also the realisation that, while I listen to a lot of metal on a daily basis, it's not necessarily what I need to create myself, or at least with this project. I've been playing synthesisers of some sort of another since I was 14 and it just felt like a very natural shift. The original version of the album had two songs that were very guitar heavy, but they felt like the belonged to another record, and definitely didn't convey the type of imagery I was after.

Looking forward, is modifying your style from one release to the next something you’d like to do every time?

Absolutely! I've already started writing a new record and it's a shift from this one for sure. I'm pretty sure anyone who hears it will be able to tell it's a Memnon Sa record, but the aim, each time, is not necessarily to try out a different genre or whatever, but to tell a different story within a specific universe. That calls for certain stylistic and melodic shifts. Also, I really want to challenge myself with every release, and working within the same boat house every go around would eventually get pretty boring for me, and the listener.

Conversely, what elements of your sound on Citadel do you think have been carried over onto Lemurian Dawn?

I think, melodically speaking, they are pretty similar albums. From the get go, I made the very clear point that I didn't want anything to sound bluesy or major. Melodically, I always aim for a similar spot, and it sounds really silly when I say it out loud, but the do or die for ideas that I try out is, ‘does this sound primal and sinister?’ Both records had the same foundation behind them, it's just that Lemurian Dawn also looks to the future (or a future). I work really hard on trying to create atmosphere around songs, and while the two records are very different, I think they leave one with similar overriding emotions.

You’ve mentioned ‘the world I’m imagining’ when describing the new album, can you expand more on what that world is like?

The world I imagine, that I am trying to transport the listener to throughout the album, is definitely a science fiction one. It's an amalgamation of lots of different images that I've picked up over years that stuck with me and eventually inspired me. While I don't believe in it one bit, the idea that an extraterrestrial race came to Earth in our distant past and built our pyramids and edifices is an idea that I absolutely love. That was the starting point. Every time I sat down to write, "does this sound like UFO's hovering over pyramids" was the guideline! It's a world where the human race has a secret history, and in the future, certain branches of the government find out about this history and decide to investigate, leading then outside of the realm of the possible into something, incomprehensible, vast and abyssal. The combination of the music, album art, and short film that will accompany the release hopefully point the listener towards this world, without ever being too explicit and bludgeoning you over the head with it.

Can you tell me more about the influence of science fiction on the new record which you’ve mentioned? Are there any particular works that made their presence felt during the creative process?

The big inspirations for the record were the films Stalker and Prometheus. I am probably one of the only people around who absolutely adored Prometheus. Sure, it had its flaws, but mythology and atmosphere wise, I thought it was exceptional. The opening scene with the giant UFO hovering over an ancient pre human world was the most important image behind the record. Stalker, thematically, wasn't that influential, but Eduard Artemyev's score was hugely important. It's a near perfect embodiment of mystery and beauty, which will always rank amongst my favourite pieces of music. Apart from those two, a lot of literature, not necessarily hard science fiction, but also scientific non-fiction (I read a lot of about Area 51 and the history of American Black Operations), cosmic horror (Laird Barron, William Hope Hodgson) and fantasy was important.

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