Tilman Robinson ~ CULTURECIDE

Tilman Robinson‘s CULTURECIDE asks all the right questions, without providing answers.  The album asks why we’ve allowed so many bad things to go on for so long: colonialism, climate change, economic inequality, technological dehumanization.  In a way, our species has committed culturecide.  In his native Australia, Robinson grew up hearing that one “people” was better than another, and was told to trust a government that spun its wheels.  Then the whole continent seemed to catch on fire, a deadly metaphor.

From this one might expect an angry album, or a sad one, but instead Robinson has produced a suite of songs that incorporate both harshness and beauty, as if to acknowledge the ugliness while pointing a way forward to a vision of the new world that might be built from the ashes of the old.  As most of the world is using isolation as a tool to battle extinction, now is the perfect time for reflection.

The album begins in urgency, as swift synthetic arpeggios plow forward into a bank of slow bass notes and beats.  The effect is akin to that of a young, energetic activist running headlong into a bureaucracy of red tape and ineptitude.  Neither side gives way.  Nothing changes.

“We Came For Your Riches” contains a timbre akin to chains, providing an aural reminder of servitude; “Bartholemew, Glowing” circles back to a percussive pile of broken glass, acknowledging that society breaks the same things over and over again.  In an unregulated race for the new, we discard the old: languages, cultures, wisdom.  The vicious cycle continues and accelerates.  “Teach Me To Destroy You” is dark and menacing on the surface, a stringed requiem rising underneath, like a delayed apology.

In “Proxy War,” a heavenly choir battles a deep rumble.  The winner is undetermined, although the choir seems to bend a bit halfway.  It’s difficult to sustain energy and optimism in the face of so much darkness.  But then the choir rallies, singing a little bit louder, a little bit higher.  Primordial forces are in play: the raging ocean, the darkness, the light.  The three-note clusters that end the album sound like additional questions:  is Gaia already doomed?  Will we ever learn to care about each other more than ourselves?   How much needs to burn before we notice the fire?  (Richard Allen)

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