Raagnagrok, Man Woman Birth Death Infinity, Lotus House Records, LHRCD19 (2013)
If you can spare an hour to wrap yourself in some seriously spaced-out psychedelic drone trance music, here’s a richly sprawling offering from Raagnagrok, a UK-based duo who play electric sitar, guitar and keyboard electronics. The inspiration for the album was supposedly a strange gem that reacted in odd ways when exposed to certain clusters of broad and narrow range frequencies. Well, whatever set off the two musicians (Zali Krishna and Mark O Pilkington) on their musical journey, it was obviously a very beneficent one because though the music definitely seems very occult, it has a friendly, positive air and promises no hidden unpleasant surprises.
Track titles trace a narrative trajectory from creation and conception through birth, life and quest for meaning to transcendence and connection with the infinite. The music is best heard as one continuous work with pauses where tracks end and begin: the mood and total listener immersion and enthrallment are what is important here. The sounds are very beautiful with the quality of jewels and the music flows easily and gently. The musicians themselves seem quite carried away by the melodies and rhythms that stream from their fingers. Sparkling space ambient effects may be hard and cold but together with the music create stunning soundscapes that expand in your head.
As the album continues, there are however occasions where you wish the guys would take the music up to a more emotionally and musically complicated and even spiritually purging level: the journey through life is not always smooth and pleasant and the soul must confront karma from past lives. Negative karma throws up obstacles and development challenges and positive karma may lure a soul into deceptive pathways and rob it of the motivation and effort needed to turn a gift or good fortune into something that truly nourishes all who come into contact with the soul. The music can be too benign in parts when perhaps it needs to be ambiguous as to its intentions. Even the track “Death”, for all its grave and heavy tones and rhythms, seems a bit too pleasant.
The later tracks are superior to earlier ones as they strive for an epic feel and overcoming all earthly boundaries to connect with infinite grace. You can really sense the musicians knitting their brows and sweating hard as they labour over their instruments during the latter half of the album.
Niggling reservations about the even tone of the music aside, this epic trip will appeal to the inner hippie in us all who chafes at our daily routine as we willingly bind ourselves with invisible chains in our cage-like cubicles in the office and stare at flickering PC screens as reams of figures march down.