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Beams From A Spiritual Panorama Bernie Brooks , March 11th, 2020 09:12

AP Macarte's first solo AHRKH outing since 2015 is an otherworldly and wonderful deep listening session, says Bernie Brooks

One of the things you might liken the new AHRKH cassette to is a wave of sound moving through water, rendered alien and otherworldly and not a little mysterious.

Speaking of, there are still a couple "NOAA (unidentified)" mystery noises sounding regularly in the briny deep, but to be honest, they aren't my favourites. They're called Upsweep and Whistle. Upsweep seems to be seasonal (there are educated guesses, but no one knows why exactly) and / or related to volcanic activity. Whistle is probably volcanogenic, but it hasn't been triangulated. Hence, unidentified. The "NOAA (identified)" ones are better. They have names like Julia, Train, and Slow Down. It's probably worth noting that "identified" might lend an (arguably) unearned degree of certainty to the explanations appended to these specific underwater phenomena. The people who study these things have sussed them out to the best of their ability. There are qualifier words: "suggests", "most likely".

The most famous of these sounds is the Bloop. It's a very loud and very powerful low frequency noise probably caused by an icequake. Its name is accurate. It sounds like a bloop.

You might also liken Beams From A Spiritual Panorama - AP Macarte's first solo AHRKH outing since 2015 - to a vast, calm ocean. Its two longform ambient tracks feel boundless, their changes almost subliminal. 'Pralaya' occupies side A, a sea of wordless chants and throaty drones. Plus, it has a Bloop all its own. About halfway through its nearly 33-minute expanse, a submerged, deep-bass whomp vies for attention, gently shaking the listener from their reverie, keeping them mindful, preventing the music from slipping fully into the background. It recurs with increasing frequency throughout the piece, performing the same function each time. Side B features 'Paramita' - more chants, more drones, but this time the sonics at hand feel reminiscent of Emptyset or MY DISCO's metallic reverberations. Retrofitted and repurposed, they somehow soothe rather than unsettle, while echoing taps and, later, the sound of heavy industry once again keep the listener from drifting off completely as the composition slowly builds toward its ecstatic denouement.

Really, it's hard to overstate the importance of Macarte's Bloops, both as reorienting buoys and as totems emblematic of his concern for the listener's experience, which in this case might be paramount. You see, Beams From A Spiritual Panorama is, in a certain sense, a functional recording.

Though Macarte may be best known for his work with Salford noiseniks Gnod, AHRKH's Beams is a deep listening record that explores the therapeutic potential of sound. Macarte is both a devotee of Vedic meditation and philosophy and a qualified sound therapist practitioner. Fittingly, the music presented on both sides of Beams feels steeped in these complementary practices, while also working as a compelling album-length recording in its own right. That's the line Macarte walks: there's more than enough here for even the most irony-poisoned, "woo woo" averse, experimental music enthusiast to latch onto, but open yourself up to it, and who knows? Personally, I've found it a deeply centering addition to my music library.

Ultimately, I've found that explaining away the unexplainable or identifying the unidentified can feel somewhat hollow, anticlimactic. Sure, demystifying a mystery, whether it's an Upsweep or a Bloop or a magic trick, adds to our knowledge and understanding of the world around us - but at the expense of a bit of wonder, which has value in and of itself. So, let's not further dissect Macarte's sleight of hand, his tightrope walk. Perhaps it's best to simply allow ourselves to sink into something wonderful without overthinking it. And not to put too fine a point on it, but AHRKH's Beams From A Spiritual Panorama is certainly one of those things.