memento mori cvrMemento Mori - Hugo Race and Josh Lord (independent)

You shouldn't put “Memento Mori” on as background music while you do the dusting or writing funny memes. I mean, you can, of course. But it's a lovely slow-paced creature, and it will snare you.

You'll find yourself slouched on the couch, wanting sleep and comfort but ... despite all the gorgeous sounds, it's damned unsettling. You'll wake with a stiff neck and your limbs out of joint, I promise. No, skip to the end for how to fully appreciate this.

But first, I must apologise unreservedly to both Josh Lord and Hugo Race. I was unable to do this review quickly enough. 

It  was intended to accompany the opening of Josh Lord's “Neotribalism” exhibition at One Star Lounge and Gallery in Melbourne earlier this month, partly because the recording is indivisibly linked to it.

However, the recording took a bit too long to get to me: as a few people know, I do many things so try to plan ahead so as to actually do the things that also matter, but that without planning would never happen. This happens with any and all reviews. And then unexpected things happen which chuck my plans into the air.

Planning? Don't talk to me about planning. I'd hoped to attend the opening of the exhibition on March 3, but a couple of family things intervened, meaning nope, that wasn't going to happen. Then I helped a lawyer chum of mine (no, don't ask) on the Saturday; I was kindly put on the door for the Scientists that night, which meant that I spent however long it was after getting home bashing out a review, badly editing it the next day and crashing early (don't ask. No, really). And then the week began ... 

Come to think of it, it's a minor miracle I get any damned thing achieved outside the everyday sucking whirlpool. One day I hope to be able to spend a couple of days just reading. How did I ever manage to do that when I was younger?

Which brings me to the exhibition-defining quote;

We may appear to be always technology advanced, hooked to hyperrealism, but inside, in our true selves, we are primitives organically linked by our tribalism.

The “Memento Mori” album is ONLY available via Bandcamp, which offers the following explanation:

 In 2021, they spent a day in the studio channelling their own improvised music, creating a wall of sound with guitars and devices. 'Memento Mori' is an hour of delirium and chaos illuminated by brief moments of unexpected beauty. Josh used this music as a catalyst for his new cycle of visual works.

Which is why I would've liked to attend the opening of the exhibition; the music is linked to Josh's art in this instance. However, since the exhibition is over ... the music first.

Now, I've been listening to this rather a lot over last night (after a rare video evening with my chum John, which included “Red Dwarf” and the “Young Indiana Jones” and loads of pizza) and today. 

We all know about the driven creatives who always have to be in your face, twiddling away with too many pointless notes like dribble from a baby's mouth. Race has never been like that, more exploring the silences between the notes as well as the harmonic effects that sustain and sustained sound create ... check out his album of John Lee Hooker covers if you don't believe me

And Josh Lord. Who knew he was a musician on top of a visual artist? Well, I did, but I don't think many other folk do.

So, what to expect? First, no lyrics, no vocals. Second, “Memento Mori” is the soundtrack to so many aspects of our modern lives it's just not fair. From the Ukraine to Tiananmin Square, to Saudi Arabia and the Wailing Wall ... this is the kind of composition that “real” classical composers wish they could achieve.

Don't believe me? Look, I've seen and heard several modern big name composer's pieces and realised with a jolt that they needed considerable trimming; there's no fat on “Memento Mori”; there's not an extraneous, useless note or sound. Everything is full and fully absorbing over its entire 49 minutes - at the very least.

“Twilight of the Empire” is a perfect beginning to a seance or the apocalypse. It's gripping, rotating harmonies shift and swirl like dark beasts beneath the surface. The level of control by both musicians here is nothing short of astonishing. Their drifting beauty slides around us like moist temptation on a kidnapper's handkerchief ... did you know that nuclear bombs create the most sumptuous colours in the sky? Until, of course, the grey ashes blot out the sun ... but then, as with volcanoes, there is such a majestic it is almost worth setting off a few H-bombs just to ...

Ha, sorry about that, went off at a tangent. Tangerine sunset, though ... Now, there will be some folks trying to locate comparisons to “Memento Mori”. That's not the point (no, I'm sure they love “Faust IV”, but I doubt that's where this is coming from. There's certainly none of Faust's combative nature, nor their quirky humour); the point is that “Memento Mori” is what it is, growing and moving in the gloom of our civilisation's twilight, utterly sensual and utterly evil. Don't put this music on if you're not prepared for full immersion.

“Simulation” sparks a clearer connection to Josh's exhibit, in particular the piece which I think is called “Copy of a Copy”: designed as a wall light, you replicate the term every time you turn it on. Endless repetition. Equally clearly, Josh has a specific theory ... our constant replication of things ... well, no. I'll have to interview the pair of them. 

“Simulation” ... well, it's huge. Musically, it's a bit like a jet engine shoved through an organ, but crafted with such subtlety and care that you become part of it quite quickly. It's arguably “Memento Mori”’s nexus. “Empire” and “Simulation” have the impact of hooding you and forcing you to listen to your own breathing, heartbeat, and the pulsing of your internal organs ... it occurs to me that there's some sort of unearthly alchemy going on here, some sort of squirming magic.

So when the guitar line in “This is Dharma” arrives, you react like the hood is whipped off your head in the middle of a popular street market: the sensory overload of sunlight, noise, jabber and dissociation and familiarity fair does your head in. 

Of course, the market is attacked by separatists or loyalists (hard to be sure who's who, really) and ... god, two thirds the way in I have tears in my eyes. 

“Future Primitive” is the finale, the gripper, the revelation that we've been listening to Faust's devil all along ... of course, it's about rebirth and our continual copying of ourselves, our jackdaw flibbertigibbet culture which conceals great horror and despair.

Of course, don't take my word for it. Out of context, each one of these pieces are utterly gorgeous, beguiling, mesmerising. Together, and with only a hint of Josh Lord's stifled, bitter vision (via the most extraordinary gallows humour) “Memento Mori” becomes the soundtrack to our zeitgeist, our generation's “Rites of Spring”.  

If I have a criticism it's that, with a couple more tracks, if that could even be a thing, 'Memento Mori' would make the most amazing double LP. 

So, I said, don't put it on just randomly, right? The way to fully appreciate and be absorbed by “Memento Mori” is to get it, loop it 30 times, turn it on with the volume UP, and enter the atmosphere of your unconscious. I promise: you won't be the same again.


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