The music of Antonymes (Ian M. Hazeldine) has always reverberated with an inherent sadness, graced by a tinge of holiness. On his newest effort, this yearning tone is reflected by the title, a reference to the 13th Chapter of Corinthians: for now we see through a glass dimly, but then face to face. The passage refers to the sea of the unknown: questions unanswered, secrets unrevealed. An alternate translation reads a mirror darkly, referring to the imperfect, oxidized images of ancient glass. In short: if we cannot see ourselves clearly, how shall we manage to grasp the eternal?
One way is through music. Music expresses what cannot be expressed in words, collecting memory, emotion and hope in a firefly jar. And something ineffable is indeed captured here, as a vast array of components coalesces into a form of clarity. Joined here by multiple friends, including Christoph Berg, Stefano Guzzetti, James Banbury, Joanna Swan and writer Paul Morley, Antonymes conveys a sense of wonder while underlining the bittersweet feeling of being finite in an infinite world.
While primarily instrumental, the album contains one lovely vocal track, and builds to a bout of narration. The searching strings of “The Lure of the Land” set the stage for the soaring strings of “Elegy (ii)”, at which point Ilya’s multi-octave voice sings of tears, wounds and awakenings. Then it’s back to the piano and cello for a period of contemplative reflection. The measured pace comes across as a prayer. The additional sounds are doled out slowly yet generously: electronic beats on “Delicate Power,” followed by the most spacious track, “Elegy (iv)”, in which silence plays as important a role as note. Then the album’s biggest surprise: a flugelhorn that bursts the volume meter that has been established to this point. It’s as if the artist has become comfortable with the questions, which continue to be whispered on the subsequent piece, stripped of their former sadness.
Late in the album, we hear a voice speaking of the self: “You come out of this world, just in the same way as the leaves come from the tree; so in that way, you are an expression of it … you must belong to this thing.” The piece builds; the strings return from their journey, and as they stretch their sounds toward the heavens, the snare makes its first appearance. Then a second narrator enters: “Are you there, you must be there somewhere … how shall I get to where you are?” The final words: “I don’t remember the rest, but it was beautiful.” The same is true of this album, which gently builds to one final flourish, leaving an impression of folded hands and sweetly falling tears. (Richard Allen)