Semaida Greizi Nakamiba (Latvian for “The Future Smiling Wryly”) is an existential album, so richly synaesthesic in its ecstatic, bleak power that the listener receives amaurosis; every sound is alive in what it is — with lifelike imperfect tremors, shakes and mistakes, Semaida lends back to humanity the reality it’s taken, presenting a sonic effigy perfectly flawed.
It’s an utterly verdant timelapse of blooming dilapidation; based on dystopian literature by George Orwell, Stanislav Lem, Aldous Huxley, Jean-Paul Sartre, Knut Hamsun and Maynard James Keenan, it delivers a post-eschatological simply-a-shambles-metal-all-moss-timelessly-rolling vision of the husks of human endeavor; and, not to overstate what is quite a fine album, it’s more important than ever that humanity receive Voyager Gold here at ‘home.’ The nirvanic timelessness that Semaida poses is o so timely.
Both lush and desolate — musician Oyaarss calls his work “lullabies for decadent people,” which is such an apt presentation of the opulent emotional fullness of these ruins — Semaida understands that the apophasis of shells and exoskeletons, the draught from which vessels for holding tightly are abandoned or rotted out, is cognizantly more poignant than the holding, that it’s the leveraged impermanence of things that is their torque in our imaginations — both past and future — that forms them worthily and renders the specter of their extension the more-than-exigency of their death. Decay entices in its lonesome welcome to deprivation and the lived acknowledgement of something lost.
Semaida’s atmosphere is metaphorically meteorological: the fickle power of these sounds is like silt-out, typhoon, the abraded skinless corrosion of acid rain, the hurricane, typhoon, and dangerous. It’s also pressed down-to-earth, where orographical beats cut precipitous terrain, crepuscular rays impale broken windows, and each song is a tributary bleeding out into the stream’s wending course. Semaida is like open-air wreck diving through the sprawling metropolises that, like sunken ship reefs, will some day serve as poetically purposeful a destruction. Oyaarss, with poised clarity, reminds us that artifacts are artefices. Ruined majesty is just desserts; it’s the spine of this aesthetic so compelling, the thrill of tragedy. Closer “Laimigas Beigas” perfectly approaches that upwelling of hope and subsuming joy associated with the human apprehension of sublime ‘costs.’ An empty vivarium is still a vivarium-that-was — and why should that be a relief?
“Semaida Greizi Nakamiba” foments the album of the same name; indeed, other songs are reiterations, reinterpretations of or expansions of this composition. Presenting a vertebral mantra (“Try to imagine the end of eternity: pain, forever”) “Semaida” is truly experiential despite its slender ingredients; it’s an austere process of creating a clearing, eroding the listener into a quarry, a new state of mind. Throughout the song, careful modulations create a journey of varying intensity; it’s the experience of terrain and of passage (over) that makes a journey. Fluctuating spaces in the intonation, with small reverb, are like shallow windows opening ceremonially and refracting light in a shallow-silled space or postholes pre-excavated. A caravanserai footstep crunch increases in volume — a small stampede, an exodus, a procession — with footsteps en masse, its echoes establishing tremendous abysm. Carefully situated pizzicato chimes fall under a crust of footstep with seismic impact, suction, bent vacuums and shrapnel dustclouds. Bass drops are slow and alive, made sentient by Oyaarss’ anthropic approach (a la Sartre on Carver’s “Ghost”). A droning, echoic, enclosed raga drowns in streams of bowing strings, samples of striving (“go!”) that lend an effortful, adventurous urgency, and the cries of choral sanctity — a benediction — all compound the main elements and present a detailed, concrete flourish to conclude, as if to say, ‘Exhibit A.’
“Ibumetins Sagurusai Dveselei” is strafing and cautious and fearsome with its ‘touch-down’ at the beginning, the meteorite boom of nothing-will-be-the-same so often used in movie trailers. “Ibumetins” begins both dense and derelict, with shimmering pans of crunchy, fanned-out metal-detecting Doppler and a breathy utterance stretched beneath a gagged cavern’s mouth. In their wake, find a clearing of open beats, anchorite-inhabited with an up-breathing head-back yell. The electronics on “Ibumetins” fan out like jets of water on variable pressure with pseudorandomized pulse, and a terrific drum machine struts like robotic tap; with flaps and cramprolls and bombershays, this electronic strafing is precision art. Nearby, a gaseous geyser hisses out steamburns of release.
“Nazabeistis,” a collaborative effort with Nauris Bruvelis (who contributes guitar and organ) begins neatly, lambent, lucent, refulgent, radiant with soft chimes and post-rocky guitar overlay, reverberant at each vibration. Here, so artfully, the mood changes until shriven withered and despondent. A domineering beat shrivels up the lathes of guitar fuzz and a campy organ presides over guitar (their timbers having irritant spats). The reassuring guitar is the core of this song (which means “Be Not Afraid”), offering post-rocky riffs with lift aspirant and montane. The organ and drum machine are better-suited, and entwine with urgency and forbearance to heights of jungle fever and fervent intensity. The sinister organ plays out against oratory chiming, pristine and tender, hitting money notes with frizzling wiggle waggle splatter (like haunted house trembles). Small sounds close out the magnificent “Nazabeistis,” one of Semaida’s best: a coal car steam chug chug chugs forth on the coupling rods, animated by a rhythmic pulse but no direction — stationary and manifold — and sonic butterflies of flapping winged flutter make a sound airborne.
The translation of “Klusums, Tveice, Lietusgaze” well describes the entire album: “Silence, Swelter, Torrential Rain.” One of Semaida’s most unconventional pieces, “Klusums” begins with a didjeridu gambara growling spring that’s both a tone and a drumbeat. Fascinatingly possessive, its shockwave echoes through the fabric of the entire song. Then, sharp, many-branched percussion gets pots-‘n’-pans reckless, triangles and bongos clobbering angularly in mobiles of broken glass, but the jangle collects itself with a soft mindfulness — again, Oyaarss’ ability to make sounds alive is staggering.
The most adroit sequence in “Klusums” is an “emergency broadcast tone” flatline that drips intravenously into a tick tick tick tick tick metronomic woodpecker. The drum’s hollow inflates, orbiting beyond asteroid fields that jitter with tickled piano keys — but then, tape reel-to-reel, it’s back to flatline. The relentless panning of “Klusums” make it unclear if the ‘birdsong’ is human emulation or the actual animal — there is a primal, totemic dissolution. This “Silence,” wittily, has built to a hurricane cloud of intensity, but rescinds, pacing out soft piano on lenticular clouds like a risen tide.
“Lidojums Par Mijkreslim” is an interpretation of the titular piece by Mahi Bukimi (whose real name is Borisovs, Maksims Borisovs, Latvian sound designer), a rehash with all the same materia but one that revokes the mood: “Lidojums” is graceful, cataphatic and unafraid, warm and trippy against the chill of “Semaida,” and chooses only a portion of the intonation: “The end of eternity: pain.” The organ is a Mycenaean carpet promising lush density; it’s all captivating drones through which clavier barbs break like crepuscules. “Lidojums” is squamous, with a rattling axles churning, a blinding light (sounds), deep and aqueous, particulate density of the reveling eastern raga (possibly made by a veena, with all that superfluous resonance). New movement blooms with small piano tap-tap-taps, tentative and pithy electronic croutons. “Lidojums” is ethereal with thick spiritual nectar; it’s blinding, consuming and inhabiting in a virga and smog mammatocumulus, tornadogenic but gently ascending as it bears down in double-movement; it’s an awful, glad and amazing display of natural power, replete with the elevating power of the beaten drum.
“Bads Esmu Es” or “Hunger Haunting” begins with reserved pipe organ beats and soft droning. The ecstatic lift of qawwali is a shout from the bottom of an immense crevasse, and the motion builds with stampeding muffled beats laying thick into the qawwal’s arcing rubato, muscular pulses utter out punchy ecstatic notes. Crunchy, malfunction-deep beats and peaceful atmospheric clearings are laid in, creating the immense sense of space and boundless constraint: an expanse speaks.
“Vienaldzigo Parmainu Muzika” is another reinterpretation of the title track by composer Edgars Raginskis. This is Semaida’s gauntlet and triumph, for “Muzika” is not electronic — it’s eight minutes of solo piano. When an atmospheric message transmutes so flawlessly, the artist’s vision is greater than their means. “Muzika” is totally consonant with the electronic Semaida, and, in my view, its centerpiece. Raginskis wreaks shrieking high notes draping down onto slow scales, forms discomfited dissonant unisons with one note just edging out (then repeating the unison proper to stitch that loose page back in). Chords emulate the crunchy beat with brutish moments bizarrely affirmative: “Muzika” is very like “Nazabeistis” in its bone structure, with the crunch of tamped-down impact and the soft, finger-stirring ripple of riffing. The main riffs, gaining power of their own after the compositional switch has passed, are more sinister and fickle, laid-down, lashed and lashing out. It has to be said that “Muzika” undresses the close tie between Oyaarss’ IDM and Soviet romanticism, where the drone and plunk of the left-hand is the essential barometer of mood.
“Skrandas” also features the guitars of Nauris Bruvelis, this time with a brighter tang. The ethereal wind of a ney begins to crunch piecemeal as, per its title (“Scrap”), “Skrandas” is deteriorating into itself. The best piece of scrap is the laser slice of a machinist shop slop, a braying rev-down like the lowing of a mechanical elephant. Then “Skrandas” halts, a ceasefire with imperfections, organic, like a tired music box fed up with Oyarrss’ puppetry.
“Laimigas Beigas,” or “Happy End,” is prescient and terribly honest, Majorly (har) intense with huge plunger drops of bass and crooning shattered windows that play-wood-wind in post-apocalyptic summer squalls. A tolling chime glockenspiel augments the beauty of the chorus. “Beigas” is cathartic, mosaic, nostalgic relief, for the fact of erasure and the fundamentally asociality of righteousness has always fascinated humanity. “Beigas” dissolves the listener into all the length of our culture: longbarrows, portional ossuraries all impressions left by crowds, assemblages, stratigraphical skyscrap, patinas. This is a song — and an album — with erosive, enshrouding power, a bleak and warm womb of extinction.