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Abstract Spirit : Escapism (split with Ennui)

A standout shared release from Abstract Spirit and Ennui brings this Funeral Doom concept to life.

Speaking as a collector, I find myself not particularly well-disposed towards split albums. They may be a handy way for bands to share costs or concepts, or for labels to promote acts, but for the purchaser there’s also the conundrum of how to physically file them, and/or digitally tag them, with any consistency. It may only be a mild irritation, but it’s enough that splits seldom feature on my ‘essential purchases’ list.

Unless, of course, they turn out to be, well, essential. Like this release from the non-commercial Moscow Funeral League label, which musicians’ collective simply seeks to promote Funeral and Death Doom bands. Their latest venture is this, labelled as “a joint conceptual work, which unites these bands in terms of views of life and death”, and featuring - in Abstract Spirit and Ennui - two of the most interesting current practitioners of the Funeral art. Its co-operative basis, linked around the theme conveyed by contemporary Moscow artist Pavel Lyakhov’s cover painting, is that of 'Escapism' as “a willingness to readily face the soothing death”.

Within that frame, though, both bands approach matters with their own individual style, leading off with Russian Abstract Spirit’s contribution. Their penchant for mixing towering, sometimes blackened, majestic extreme Doom with eerie orchestral and choral inserts is well-documented, and it continues in the same vein here. That particular combination of off-beat pathos, dark mystery and grinding misery may no longer be new, but it still has the power to drag the imagination into realms of fatal beauty, and here it is executed as a familiar, yet faintly horrifying, embrace that perfectly captures the album theme. As with the last couple of full-length releases, it is the quirky detailing which truly brings that to life: such as the choir, seamlessly slid into 'An Ode To The God's Fool', or the tinkling, almost jazzy piano infills sprinkled throughout 'Schizotherica', the layers of keyboard below the hoarse, growled vocal cadences and the constantly shifting guitar riffs. It is, once again, a sublime exemplar of Funeral Doom, delivered with the deceptive ease and consummate atmosphere we have come to expect from Abstract Spirit.

Georgian duo Ennui, providing the second brace of tracks, take a less iconoclastic path for their Funeral signature: a coldly cavernous rumble of background bass and percussion, blending in with sustained growls and knifing, piercing guitar lines. In similar fashion to their previous split with Aphonic Threnody, the mix is noticeably quieter and less individuated than the first half of 'Escapism': only the guitar occasionally establishes real prominence. The subdued, slightly murky feel this brings fits well with the slower, more hypnotic evolution of their compositions, even bringing a certain surface obscurity to them: as before, this is music which rewards more attentive listening to bring out its best. That best is more obvious in the second track, 'The Day Of Abandonment', with its subtext of keyboards and digression into synthesised choral passages, but equally present in the more morbidly straightforward gloominess of 'Where The Common Sense Is Ruined'. Minimalist, in a sense, Ennui continue to do much more than the sum of the raw materials they use.

Whether organised primarily by the bands or the label, MFL are to be commended for packaging such a complementary and yet continuous sequence of Funeral gems. As a split, that basic sense of linked, yet contrasting, themes gives it an integrity and purpose well beyond a simple space-sharing exercise. It works, and works beautifully, in its own way and as an addition to both bands’ catalogues (both of which, I might add, are recommended purchases in their own right). The only question is what to do about filing it - well, hell, perhaps I’ll just buy two copies to get around that issue! Now, that really is essential…

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
Abstract Spirit
1. An Ode To The God's Fool
2. Schizotherica
3. Where The Common Sense Is Ruined
4. The Day Of Abandonment

Duration : Approx. 46 minutes

Visit the Abstract Spirit bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-07-06 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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