Music has been used in ritual for millenia, and though the term “ritual” is something that will mean different things to different people, music is a shared language through which we all can connect through sound if not words. This idea is something we’ve discussed with Brazilian psychedelic punk trio Deafkids in the past, who told us of the ways in which they seek “transcendence through repetition”, attempting to connect with an audience through music that feels alive and primal. The band’s Mariano Melo explained how they prefer a “social” form of psychedelia, where instead of someone influencing you through words, the collective experience of music sees that music itself inhabit your body as in a ritual.
This understanding of music also seems apt for the new collaborative project from Deafkids’ Douglas Leal, who releases solo music as Yantra, and Rakta’s Paula Reballato, whose solo music comes under the moniker of Acavernus. Rakta’s own music mirrors Deafkids in its experimental spirit, but it is not driven by a punky energy, instead it takes on a cinematic scope, washing over the listener and captivating your attention through expansive soundscapes that occasionally feel lush and perhaps even calming, but are often subtly ominous at the same time, ensuring you never quite feel fully at ease.
On their solo works, Leal and Reballato expand upon certain aspects of their respective bands’ styles. Acavernus shares with Rakta a proclivity for vast, atmospheric soundscapes, aiming in Reballato’s own words for a sound that “evokes strangeness, strength and beauty”. Leal’s Yantra, meanwhile, often seems to focus on slow compositions built for reflection and meditation. 2017’s ATMA features 45 minutes of MIDI harmonics that seem to be based on the Sanskrit word from which the title likely derives, which means “essence, breath, soul”.
Together, Leal and Reballato today release collaborative album Gnose, the early material for which was written in 2019 for a live performance. That material has since been expanded upon and has now blossomed into a full-length album, partly recorded in a studio but finished at home during the first months of the pandemic. Musically, the record seems to take the best aspects of both musicians’ key traits. Gnose places an emphasis on atmosphere, at times making use of Reballato’s skill with cinematic textures to fully bask in the evocative atmosphere of a piece (as on ‘Imersão’) whilst at others surging forwards with zeal. ‘Hiperexcitação’ in particular makes use of percussive repetition made all the more dynamic by electronic embellishments. This approach is then deconstructed somewhat on successive track ‘Enigma’, where the constant drums are accompanied by birdsong and then suddenly halt in the middle of the track, replaced by whale song-like wails.
The eleven-minute ‘Lamento & Cólera’ may in fact be the standout however. Its first half is restrained, with fast acoustic strumming and a slow drone that builds ever so slowly, gradually beginning to morph and swell to overwhelm the track. The track’s second half sees it leave behind the acoustic foundation almost entirely, becoming a strange stirring point of enigmatic vocalisations and atmospheric drones. A hint of harsh noise later takes the foreground alongside some ascending cries, before the track finishes on a massive drone which cracks and stutters like a gigantic slab of ice slowly breaking free from a glacier. The title-track closer is a real gem however, with the sound of a rainstorm working in tandem with the soft, echoing chants to suggest something refreshing and purifying.
Though each track has its own approach, Gnose is an album with a distinct aura that feels uniquely its own. Through an inventive fusing of acoustic instruments with electronic and processed sounds, Reballato and Leal have created an album that feels ritualistic, whatever that term means to you. Check it out in full below!
Gnose is out now on Buh Records. Order here. Vinyl release coming 10th November.
Words: George Parr