> CYCLOBE – Visitors From Strange Galaxies by Karsten Wolniak
While it doesn’t really stay silent when it comes to two of the leading figures of experimental music, Cyclobe was surprisingly audible this year: Two concerts, during the CTM Berlin in January and the Unsound Festival in Krakow in October, and two reissued albums in March speak volumes. The Visitors, one of said reissues, was originally released 13 years ago. It lives up to its name: The album is filled with spherical and extraterrestrial sounds which may make one doubt that their creators originated from this planet.
Undoubted, however, is their adoration of the universe and nature, which strongly influences their music, allowing the listener to feel an authentic, pulsating touch of something living. A touch clearly recognizable within the wind murmuring through the leaves, as it appears in the record’s first track ‘Sentinels’. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it, you’ll find nature within Cyclobe’s most cryptic, turbulent, and electronically altered soundscapes.
‘My pagan views influence my work in a profound way, it’s enormously important to me so it touches all aspects of my life, and very much so my creative work. It’s essential that our work conveys a sense of reverie, devotion.’, Ossian Brown names his spirituality as one of the predominant sources from which he draws said aural elements so closely linked to nature. ‘I don’t see how something electronic is any less pagan. In fact I’d like us to do a performance where all our electricity was generated by rotting vegetables.’, he states on the conflict that might be associated with these two key elements of their music.
The perhaps most earthly part of this otherworldly album is its new folk-like addition, the track ‘Son of Sons of Light’. A fruit of their labour with Michael J. York, whose bagpipes add an almost traditional aspect to the piece. The Visitors now provides almost an hour of ritual music for the accumulation of pagan energy – or alternatively, an hour of devotion to the vastness of the universe.
The reissue of Sulphur-Tarot-Garden contains no new track. Nevertheless, fans of experimental music have something to look forward to, considering that the original album, released in 2012 and dedicated to the English film director Derek Jarman, was strictly limited to 200 numbered copies. The whole album is an imaginative stimulus which provides more than 30 minutes of soundscapes that appear incredibly alien. While each piece of the album – ‘Sulphur’, ‘Tarot’, and ‘Garden of Luxor’ – has a very unique sound, they’re all united in their strangeness. An atmosphere created by mechanical stridulation and organic buzzing, a sound not quite conceivable. Something sacred, dedicated to the stars.
‘I can’t imagine not being interested in these things, the stars have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. It’s deep rooted in mankind in general really, to look up at the sky and wonder about the greater structure.’, explains Stephen Thrower their omnipresent interest in the universe, which runs like a golden thread through their work. ‘Star-light puts us in touch with the ancient past, too, of course. Light from the stars is millions or even billions of years old, these strings of photons ping against our retinas across unimaginable chasms of time. It makes your mind reel and your heart pound when you try to take in the enormity of the idea. Thinking about the beauty of the cosmos touches the same part of me that religion touches in others. I’d rather worship a pulsar!’
Ossian Brown explains the impact that their recreational drug use had on them, how their extraterrestrial sounds have – to a certain degree – a very terrestrial origin: ‘This experiences had an enormous influence on us, when you journey through these experiences, of course the effect remains, you return altered. I haven’t had any new experiences for many years, the last time was with Jhonn [Balance of the British experimental band Coil, which Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown were permanent members of] in Russia, in the woods near Kaliningrad. I very much doubt I ever will again, but its fingerprints are all over my psyche. I’d say it’s certainly influenced our approach to composition, a certain sensibility that feeds into how we interpret sound and how we place it, the character we invest in it.’
He furthermore reveals that these two reissues won’t be all that we’ll be hearing from Cyclobe in the near future. The British music pioneers Stephen Thrower and Ossian Brown will soon be reaching out to us to share their impressions of planets yet unbeknown to us: ‘We’re currently working hard to finish our next full length album, the follow up to Wounded Galaxies Tap at The Window. Some of the pieces we’ve been performing versions of at our live concerts. We’re very excited and intrigued by the new work. We’re also working on a series of new recordings built around ideas I had been focusing on with my hurdy-gurdy. Initially the pieces came from combining the hurdy-gurdy with pipes, but the pieces have now expanded somewhat to include voice and electronics, Univox organs.’ It’s a stylistic characteristic of Cyclobe that the human voice serves as an instrument (as in ‘The Eclipser’) rather than by contributing any lyrical components.
The Visitors and Sulphur-Tarot-Garden can be ordered on CD or (double) 12″ vinyl LP from the shop on Cyclobe’s website.