Verena Barié, Gerri Jäger, Sjoerd Leijten, Malu Peeters, Stijn Verhoeff ~ A Rational World

A father and son plod through a wet, barren landscape. All that can be made out is a hazy object far in the distance— perhaps some kind of ship. This is the opening scene of “Ansage Ende” (end of announcement), the short film through and for which the album A Rational World was created. This stark image screams dystopia— à la “The Road.” It’s one of the only fictional scenes in the film, which blends invented storyline and documentary. 

In the title track, a speaker discusses how a rational society would halt usage of nonrenewable energy. In contrast, the increasing investment in fossil fuels is “so pathological that it’s hard to find any words for it.” Luckily, we have music. Electronic frequencies pick up as the speech meanders into a possible solution. Percussion becomes more frantic and booming, reflecting the sort of chaotic uprising that the speaker deems necessary. The soundscape disarrays, but then thins. Eventually a low flute holds a steady drone. 

High pitched electronic and mechanical sounds comprise “Joyful Militancy.” Haphazard drums bang in the background with no regard for the rhythm of the squeals and oinks peppering the track. A flute fades in and out menacingly. This piece, like the rest of the album, is composed of field recordings and music the group recorded in a barn. Much of the field recording comes from a protest at a coal mine in The Netherlands. The manifestation is captured in the film; in the second scene, protestors camp out in trees in an attempt to halt deforestation, while a police force (joyful militants) stands by to allow the demolition. This scene seems more dystopian than the last. 

The most lighthearted track is “Gerri’s Animal Interlude,” staying true to interlude form. Glitchy farm animal sounds are tactfully mixed with the beat, like a DJ expertly turntabling a noisy children’s toy. At one point, a voice (likely Gerri’s) gleefully imitates a record scratch. This entertaining respite from the intensity is welcome, though one gets the impression that its inclusion is ironic– as if to illustrate the peril of distraction. Either way, “Gerri’s Animal Interlude” has a catchy rhythm that might get one bopping one’s head to the beat— but only momentarily, until the sobering journey continues. “A Daunting Thing” features a pontification on how harrowing it is to face the truth of the climate crisis. This is precisely what the album implores its listeners to do– confront the facts of our global disaster, and recognize that dystopias aren’t necessarily fictional. 

“A Rational World” is a masterpiece of a wakeup call. Haunting and riotous, it demands the listener’s attention. And though it elucidates the severity of our crisis, it is not without hope. At one point a spirited mob chants, “The seas are rising and so are we!” For all the chilling impartiality that exists, passion prevails.  (Maya Merberg)

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