Jarl, Mind Rotation, Poland, Zoharum, ZOHAR 265 CD / limited edition cassette (2022)
Swedish electronics musician Erik Jarl is nothing if not diligent in putting out new studio-recorded work, releasing an album (or two) in most years since 2001 as Jarl alone, not to mention the work he has done in other projects either singly or in collaboration with other musicians. “Mind Rotation” is the sixth studio album Jarl has done for Polish label Zoharum and is part of a series of albums Jarl has recorded on aspects of human psychology. This instalment traces a downward spiral of a protagonist’s mind from cheerful normality and energy into anxiety, despair and isolation, and then into a permanent psychotic state.
The first couple of tracks “Mind Variation” and “Mind Dimension” are sprightly exercises in rhythmic electronic minimalism, with layers of synth drone lounging about over a repeating animated pointillist loop. “Mind Variation” especially has a busy if shrill air, and the repeating loop seems to have a compulsive bent but otherwise the track gives no hint of encroaching darkness. Even “Mind Dimension”, rather slower, is calm and serene for much of its length, and while individual droning tones may be dark, put together they project an air of steady composure in a realm of rich layered textures.
With “Mind Symptoms”, indications that our subject consciousness is becoming more introverted and isolated from others come to the fore in long drones superimposed over a rhythm that seems over-anxious and which becomes more intensely obsessional with each repeating loop. “Mind Isolation” emphasises repetition even more, as if the subject mind is turning over something repeatedly and compulsively, and each time it does so the obsession takes further root and sends more tendrils deeper into its host until the latter loses all contact with reality. The final track “Mind Disorder” appears lost in deep space, all obvious structure steadily disappearing until only a layer of drone is left, sprawling whichever way it goes seemingly without beginning or end. The drone acquires tonal and ambient accretions that increase tension and an anticipation that the end, when it does come, will be bad for our protagonist.
Though repetitive, and perhaps in need of editing in parts (particularly in the long final track which is at least 20 minutes long), “Mind Rotation” is an intense and confronting musical experience that commands your full attention and won’t let go until you’ve been through all the suffering and torment that bedevil the protagonist mind. The music has a stark quality that can be remote, chilly in feeling and intimidating to listeners. This is definitely one album not to be heard late at night when your mind itself is on the verge of the subconscious.