Mamiffer - The World Unseen - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Mamiffer - The World Unseen

by Jeff Penczak Rating:7 Release Date:2016-04-06

Seattle’s prolific husband-and-wife musicians Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner have released over a dozen albums, collaborations, and split releases since 2008, most with unpronounceable titles like Hirror Enniffer (2008), Mare Decendrii (2011), and Statu Nascendi (2014), so don’t be too frustrated trying to pronounce or understand the meaning behind their chosen moniker. (I can’t find anything online or in the dictionary.) Even trying to describe their style to newbies can be frustrating, as previous writers have tagged them everything from metal and experimental to post rock, dark ambient, and drone. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between, but this brief overview should suggest what you’re in for.

     On to the music, which begins with ‘By The Light Of My Body’, a short, speaker-rattling hum that could’ve soundtracked “The Monolith” sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Angelic, hypnotic, eerie, unsettling...what an opening! Coloccia’s airy soprano combines both wordless vocals and short lyrical passages with ominous piano chords on the classical-leaning horror film ambience of ‘Flower of The Field II’. (The first part, which I haven’t heard, is on their previous album, Statu Nascendi.)

     A celestial veil of vast open spaces floats across ’13 Burning Stars’, which also sounds like it ends with a field recording of a NASA rocket launch, but could be fallout from last year’s Fourth of July fireworks display, while ‘Mara’ benefits from Coloccia’s multi-tracked vocals that sound like a private school Glee Club waxing lyrically over a simple piano motif. It also floats majestically around the room like a choir practicing for Sunday services at the local church down the road.

     The preceding offerings only begin to set the stage for the album’s centrepiece, the nearly half hour, three-part, ‘Domestication of The Ewe’, wherein the couple really let their freak flag fly and delve into their more experimental tendencies. Part I (‘Est Ovum’) may suggest birth from an egg, but sounds like The Conet Project’s search for mysterious noises emanating from outer space. Unfortunately, ten minutes of this excruciating white noise is terminally boring and aesthetically puzzling. Part II (‘Höhle) could refer either to a cave or a body cavity, and it is appropriately creepy. An ominous piano tinkles around mysterious violin scratchings, continuously building tension, fear, and doubt – where are we going and what lies around that next bend? The climactic finale (‘Divine Virus’) is again, both a religious experience and a search for meaning of what’s “out there”, part ecclesiastical hymn (imagine Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard interpreting the songbook of Hildegard von Bingen), part electronic SETI signal. It’s simultaneously contemplative, elegiac, and orgiastic, yet mysteriously frustrating. What exactly is a “divine virus” and is this a political statement, a musical prayer, or a mystical pronouncement. While I like my mysteries wrapped up nicely in small packages with tidy little bows on them, I’m sure Coloccia and Turner would prefer the listener work out their own agenda and interpretation.

     This is certainly not an easy listen, but will please anyone who likes to seek meaning in their musical listening experiences, and while most mysteries will not be solved by the time ‘Parthenogenesis’ wraps things up with another ambient, piano-driven extra-terrestrial outburst of operatic voices and speaker-shredding sound effects, this does warrant repeat listens to let its atmospheric ambience envelop your body...and brain. If they could only rethink ‘Est Ovum’! 

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