Hüma Utku‘s distinctive background ~ raised in Istanbul, now based in Berlin ~ may be responsible for the distinctive industrial timbres of The Psychologist. But the subject matter is another obvious culprit, as the artist draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including alchemy, Gestalt psychology and Jung. The flames that surround her image may symbolize the soul’s fire, the creative fire, the need to burn parts of one’s past, or the heat of internal warfare; but they also serve as an apt symbol of the album’s music, a combination of lava and flame.
The opening tone operates as a tabula rasa: a piece of feedback from which notes will emerge. The ensuing sounds are foreboding ~ synthetic sirens and alarms. Disquiet is about. Hüma Utku calls this “Fuel for the Flames,” deepening the emotional impact with cello drones and double bass. The beats wait in the wings until “Dissolution of I,” but bear a caul of drama. This is not pop psychology, but abnormal psychology: the most fascinating and disturbing branch.
“Sublimation” introduces battling voices, the tug of moral conflict, the battle between impulse and action. If we all have a dark side, why do we listen to so little dark music? The answer may be that we prefer to sublimate, leading to incongruence and disassociation. Utku confronts her darkness head on, brings it to the examining table, dissects it, exposes her darkness to the light. This being said, the piano-based “Light of All Lights” is not a happy piece, but an expression of “anticipatory grief,” an apprehension that can paralyze and debilitate.
The pieces begin to bleed together, sonic threads connecting “Light of All Lights” with “Continuing Bonds” and timbre connecting “Continuing Bonds” with “Islands of Consciousness.” One thinks of the collective subconscious and shared experiences of trauma. Psychology also seeks to heal, and while this aspect may seem less apparent in industrial music, the genre champions an intentional plunge into darkness akin to deep therapy. The waves that break on the far shore of “Islands of Consciousness” ~ stretching into “Rüya” ~ imply guided meditations, a landing on a safe shore. Industrial music may be the antithesis of new age, but makes the process seem harrowing and altogether real. The Psychologist is not easy listening, but authentic. (Richard Allen)