Following up 'Savage Sinusoid', his 2017 exercise in finely crafted aural insanity, weird shit and resplendently realised sonic poetry of the utmost emotionally nourishing kind, Gautier Serre has returned with Igorrr for another outing with more of what he does best. Better, in fact. I rated 'Savage...' a respectable 9/10, but this new one, 'Spirituality and Distortion' (fantastic title!) is a clear 10/10. A deranged masterpiece. It's always been said there's a fine line between insanity and genius... Serre continues to walk that line more than most, on a record that is an emotionally complex beast, loaded with as much sublimity, comfort, exquisiteness, humour and charm as it is frustration, pain, turmoil, anguish and fear. As captivating as it is unsettling and that, for me, is pure bliss.
Through another original fusion of disparate, yet perfectly fused, stylistic choices, it's all delightfully and refreshingly unpredictable. And, as with its predecessor, as unpredictability becomes familiarity over time, through multiple listens, the more aurally challenging passages reveal their own sense of beauty, as abrasiveness transforms into allure, and the album then starts to reveals its true poetic core. Albeit the complexity of emotional layers retain the power to offer new affective depths with each new listen... wholly dependent, I guess, on the mood I'm in, and the varying contexts within which I've engaged with the album. That, for me, is a hugely powerful quality of any art; where it has an inherent potential to be able to continue to transform its emotional significance at any given time, in any given context. Arguably, all art has the potential for polysemy and the range of emotional responses associated with such, but Serre’s insane compositional genius provides more potential than most.
From metal to baroque to electronica to breakcore to classical to operatic to other surprise stylistic twists and turns; from Eastern scales to various classical idioms to more conventional modes associated with a bread-and-butter metal backbone, songs switch between their varying styles, scales and modes with revivifying bliss, on an album that ultimately transcends genre. Or, more appropriately put, where any semblance to genre affiliation is merely a means of expressing a particular emotion rather than mindless mimicry for the sake of. Likewise for the variety of vocals to be heard - histrionic, operatic, guttural death growls (George 'Corpsegrinder' Fisher crops up at one point in a guest spot); dissonantly anguished screams - combine at one with the music to convey the emotionally varied journey that ‘Spirituality and Distortion’ offers.
Ostensibly, at least on paper, the mix of disparate elements, in terms of composition, genre and variety of instruments and sounds in Igorrr's music, expectations would be of a more synthetic sounding record. Or, as some might anticipate (and many others have reified their own art in more synthetic ways), the ambitious undertaking of Igorrr's multi-layered fusion of diverse sonic euphony and cacophony, would be far more easily effectuated via artificial means. Sampled instruments, for example. Acoustic instruments emulated through digital ease. This, however, is not that record. No expense or effort was seemingly spared, as Serre apparently brought in a whole range of instrumentalists to the studio (via planes, trains and cars) - violinist Timba Harris, bassist Mike Leon, pianist Matt Lebofsky, Oud player Mehdi Haddab, accordion player Pierre Mussi, Kanoun player Fotini Kokkala and harpsichordist Benjamin Bardiaux are all listed in the press release, although I gather there were also further musicians involved.
All in all, this is an emotionally invigorating and nourishing rollercoaster or a record; a sonic thrill-ride that exhilarates and captivates as much as it does frustrate and distance. And I hasten to add that those contrasting, diametrically opposed emotions are an unmitigated positive quality of the listening experience for me... a reflection and creatively ambitious expression of life itself... particularly during our current tumultuous times (even before all the virus anxieties hit the world). It's an album where, one moment, sublime and melodically mesmeric euphonic passages will offer up the potential for an emotional haven, before being struck by passages of cacophonic derangement that pull the rug of comfort from under such sonic sanctity. So, yeah, this is an album that's not always an easy listen... which is indubitably part of its essence. Art that challenges and snaps a listener out of any perceived comfort zone is where it's at for me. Humans are emotionally complex beings, and art that stimulates and feeds various emotional avenues of a person's innate vitality as profoundly as this does is to be celebrated. A total fucking masterpiece.
SPIRITUALITY AND DISTORTION
Review by Mark Holmes
27th March 2020
1) Downgrade Desert
2) Nervous Waltz; 3) Very Noise
4) Hollow Tree; 5) Camel Dancefloor
6) Parpaing; 7) Musette Maximum
8) Himalaya Massive Ritual
9) Lost in Introspection
10) Overweight Posey
11) Paranoid Bulldozer Italiano
12) Barocco Satani
13) Polyphonic Rust
14) Kung-Fu Che`vre
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"Humans are emotionally complex beings, and art that stimulates and feeds various emotional avenues of a person's innate vitality as profoundly as this does is to be celebrated. A total fucking masterpiece."