Review: René Aquarius – Blight

a0571223932_16When listening to percussion, my focus tends to be drawn more to the player than the instrument. Rhythms are merely the translation of a body in movement; the output of a synchronous flexing and failing, amplifying a sequence of muscle twitches through membranes of metal, wood and plastic. Yet on Blight, I barely hear the player at all. By using equalisation as a sculptural tool, Aquarius transforms the sound of cymbals and drums into great waves of resonance; overtones fanning out across space and birthing new frequencies as they collide, drowning the act of instigation with prolonged, expansive surges of consequence. The player is only ever faintly present. I hear the light tap of sticks as Aquarius guides new cymbal vibrations into the air, but ultimately his role is to rouse the song that lies dormant within his instrument, trapped in the ridges of cymbal surfaces and the taut skins of toms. Gently, he shakes the beast awake.

Strange things happen when one fixates exclusively on percussion like this. Sounds congeal into hallucinated shapes. Groaning voices and trombones appear vividly for a moment before bleeding outward into obscurity again. Melodies start to occur organically as overtones twirl in the air, like messages encrypted into the flow. The acoustics of Blight situate me in a subterranean cave of some sort, reverberant enough to suspend cymbal wash defiantly above the inevitability of decay, with guttural resonances foaming in mouths of moist stone. It’s pitch black. Bass drums boom through the emptiness. Aquarius drags drones out of his instrument until they smother him whole, and at certain points during Blight, I hear the drum set adopt the illusion of autonomy – echoes rouse the very skins and surfaces from which they derive, generating a beautiful, almost ritualistic feedback loop of action and aftermath.