Ain Soph – II
In many respects, the group Ain Soph is very similar to the more popular Current 93. They both began in the early 1980’s as proto-industrial groups creating music for ritual use. Also, both groups made major shifts in their musical vision relatively early in their careers (with both exploring folk music, with Ain Soph also pursing “sacral-hymns” and psychedelic hard rock).
The first song is a meandering industrial haze, with murky industrial hums underlying metallic percussion (gongs?) in addition to strange tapping noises and warbling spoken word (apparently “reciting the Enochian First Key” formula, although I imagine it would be hard for anyone who wasn’t immediately familiar with it to know it as such). At various times, barely discernable whispers float in the distance, far removed from the main vocals, as the music slowly builds in intensity. Eventually, what might be random guitar strumming (although that is far from certain) is added, as the whispered voice now becomes as prominent as the original distorted one, chanting the four words printed on the front of the album cover. While the overall presentation is relatively well-constructed, I am neither impressed nor disenchanted so far. Instead, I find myself curiously ambivalent. This is partially due to my admitted ignorance regarding anything Enochian in nature, thus I cannot tell if this is effective or not in a ritual sense (apparently one of the main appealing features most of the listeners found when this was first released). Ironically enough, this is also similar to my feelings towards Current 93’s earliest work Lashtal (which was supposed to be an invocation for a demon or celestial being of some sort). However, in this instance, my ambivalence towards (unfortunately) to boredom, as the first track is just over thirty minutes. I can appreciate it being repetitive in the sense of being ‘ritualistic’, but since I am not familiar with how it is supposed to be experienced, it is hard for it to keep my attention more than short periods of time.
The second track is a bit more assertive than the first one, as a pounded (but slightly blurred) gong in the background accompanies a spoken word narrative (which is somewhat hard to understand due to the slight accent of the speaker and the clanging in the background). Once again, it’s hard to understand exactly what the vocals are getting at, but what I can understand involves the speaker referring to very esoteric terminology and heavily symbolic phrases, the most common one being: “Be ready to fly or to smite(?)”. Other notably weird phrases included: “…and a voice said: Stay outside” and “This is my kingdom…my sister, my lover”.
A rumbling rhythm starts off the calmer third track, followed quickly by male/female vocals and whispers. Occasional bass hums and industrial noises punctuate the song at various locations. Also notable is that the lyrics are in Italian, making the inability to understand the subject matter somewhat easier to digest.
Finally, a strange buzzing synth levitates directly beneath somber male choir vocalizations. Quasi-operatic tenor (or alto) female vocalists soon join. It is significant to note that, while being the shortest segment of the group, it is also the track I am most excited and engage about when listening to it (which is somewhat tragic, given that it is the shortest at seven minutes). Why this theme is not pursued further on this recording is beyond me, given that the singing on this song is quite inspiring and genuinely moving during some sections (invariably reminding me of similarly styled vocals inserted at the end of Ocean Machine’s “Voices In The Fan” song).
Overall, this is a good (if not terribly impressive) album, more important in a historical context rather than a musical context. Ain Soph would later abandon this experimental music form in favor of hard rock, avant-garde and folk music (not in that order). Judging from the compelling nature of the last track (easily the album’s standout), I would be interested in hearing their album of “sacral-hymns”. However, for fan’s curious of industrial’s/dark ambient ‘ritual/cult’ beginnings, independent from Throbbing Gristle, might find in Ain Soph’s “II” album much of interest (especially if they are familiar with the theology represented behind the music). If, on the other hand, you have explored such avenues as Current 93’s “Nature Unveiled” or “Dogs Blood Rising” or perhaps even the earlier Lustmord, Controlled Bleeding, or Nocturnal Emissions recordings, there is precious little here that is substantially different any of the similar artists during that time period (despite claims that they were one of the ‘originators’…a somewhat sketchy claim at best).
EDIT: Also, just found out that the last track reviewed was a bonus track…apparently the original only included the first three. What a pity.