The third release in Apparat‘s 2020 soundtrack series, Dämonen is the score to Sebastian Hartman’s theatre production, based on Dostevsky’s anti-nihilistic novel Demons, not the horror film of the same name. In the novel, demonic forces (which include materialism, anarchism and atheism) possess a town in the same manner as demons possessed a herd of pigs in the Gospel of Luke. The track titles reference the Minor Prophets of the Old Testament and their visions. From this description one might expect a harrowing listen, but Apparat’s music is graceful and grace-filled. By the end, one might even call it uplifting ~ a far cry from the source material, which ends in suicide. The music also strays from any preconceptions about Apparat as a purely electronic artist.
We love the allusive cover art, in which a great cloud of unknowing either basks in the light, yearns to be free, creeps into the building or hides from other clouds. The same range of interpretations can be applied to the music. The opening “Tolga” (“Helmet,” perhaps the helmet of salvation in Ephesians 6) dives in and out of a cloud of drone, seeking clarity in much the same manner as Dostoevsky and his characters. One might say the same of today’s societies, who wrestle with competing ideologies and declarations of “truth.” These demons seldom die, but leave to await “an opportune time.” One can sense danger on the outskirts of these tracks, although it would be hard to hear evil; perhaps the more insidious force is one that seems benign. But one does hear struggle. The world is going through its own growing pains right now, but Dostoevsky’s writings remind us that “progress” is incapable of changing human nature.
“Habakuk” (Note: some spellings may differ from those to which the reader is accustomed) is a more obvious dance track, a music box melody performing a pas de deux with an electronic rhythm. This is immediately followed by the melancholic “Hosea,” which makes sense for those who know anything about his relationship with Gomer. The couple even gets an encore in the form of “Hosea (Next Level),” which seems only mildly happier, depending on whether one interprets the wordless calls as taunts or temptations. The dissonant ending implies that when it is all over, one or both will need therapy.
The set also produces moments of quiet beauty, such as the belled walls of “Micha” (one of many prophets who spoke of a future king). The ending sounds like horse clops and helicopter whirls, a reminder of earlier Apparat productions. And “Sacharja” is so melodic one can imagine inventing lyrics to sing atop the plucking. But most people don’t know these prophets; they only know Jonah. “Jona” is a dramatic piece, wet around the ears yet devoid of whale song. In the original story, the prophet is furious that God has killed a tree, upset that he was “used” to save tens of thousands of people. It’s no surprise his whale Uber leaves him there instead of bringing him home. God seems saddened, even confused, an attitude Dostoevsky seems to share. When will society turn from its basest impulses? Will we ever exorcise our demons? (Richard Allen)