Ambient stalwart Peter Andersson, known here as raison d’être, returns from a significant hiatus to offer up a truly dark, introspective piece with Mise en Abyme. A more apt title could not be chosen. Mise en Abyme translated from French means placed in the Abyss, and this album squarely places the listener into an aural downward spiral.
This project was created around the idea of descent and katabasis (a retreat, in this case, an inner, psychological retreat of catharsis). Andersson’s dark drones and post-meditative washes of sound design are suffuse with this emotional landscape. Some of the cello accoutrements harken to Erik Skodvin’s scraping, steely stylings. At times, the human voice hauntingly accompanies these dark, seething shard-filled tornadoes of sound. Nearly Gregorian chant style voices are mixed in nicely, drifting in and out, but treated with the appropriate dark introspection as to avoid that stereotypical new age sound. This is not your mom’s Deep Forest CD she uses for pop relaxation, nay. Andersson paints the edges of this hell with tortured and lingering spirits, bereft of a home, attempting to teach the living some lesson of grand import. This is a harsh album, but with the understanding that the English language may not have a proper term for ‘harsh’ that is also ‘affirming’ as much as it is ‘reflective’. I think that “Katharos”, in particular (as does the entire album, honestly), produces a sound pastiche that accurately depicts the metal grain of Hell.
This is music that knocks, creeks, touches on nerves pensive, but also soothes, as if illuminating that the fabric of existence has no true end. Sometimes, while listening to “Mise en Abyme“, an eerie religiosity crept up on me and I could almost hear it as a replacement soundtrack for the film The Name of The Rose. And I don’t say this jokingly or just for the sake of dropping a late-80’s Christian Slater reference, but because it truly would match the mood and aesthetic of that film.
Surprisingly, in contrast to all these dark, fearsome descriptors I’ve used, “Mise en Abyme” has actually accepted membership into the group of albums I will gladly fall asleep to, amongst the likes of Skodvin, Deaf Center, Nest, and Olan Mill. (Gabriel Bogart)