Noêta is apparently a Greek term that describes the concept of universal thoughts or ideas without someone thinking them. Obscure as this may sound, I get that. This album from the Swedish duo shares transcendental obscurity. Or put another way, “Beyond Life and Death” is black ambient.
The scene is sultry. The drum beats slowly and a shadowy female voice glides mystically and hypnotically through the air. There’s that psychedelic feel of an album by The Gathering, particularly on the vocal front, but this is deeper and darker. “In Drowning” floats in and out of consciousness. These gloomy songs are like hymns. Pedestrian and repetitive rhythms don’t create excitement, but it’s appropriate to the themes expressed so sullenly in tracks like “Darkest Desires”.
I once made a remark to someone who commented I was in a sunny mood. Listening to this album will dispel any such airiness and lightness. It is deliberately leaden-heavy and drone-like, even as we float through the programmed cosmos of “Pneûma” where the infinite is just dark and impenetrable. Acoustic gentleness then leads us into the gloomy but beautiful “In Void”. On a technical point, the lady sings of the world “outside my window”, a very Bennettesque and Wolverinian leitmotif for alienation, but I wouldn’t have said in this case that the infrastructure of windows is something one would associate with voids. Such technicalities apart, the depressing dream continues inexorably. The only bright spot for me was the haunting guitar rhythms, which appear and soften what is ostensibly a cold and menacing scene. But it’s all about death, voids, drowning and darkness, so unsurprisingly perhaps it’s hard going. By “In Thunder”, we’re in a nightmarish dream world where progress is minimal and painful. To wrap things up, if indeed this possible, the album finishes with “Urkaos”, a piece of black ambient drone with spoken words. I don’t know if the speaker is supposed to sound weird for extra terrestrial effect or it’s just his native Swedish accent, but this fell into the “trying too hard” category for me. I think by this stage after being subjected to this deadened psychological and ethereal immersion, I’d got the message.
Patience is required. This album is not of this world and should be respected as such. I read a description of Noêta’s 2015 ep “psykē” as “barren and extremely quality”. These qualities fit “Beyond Life and Death” too. The problem I had with it was that while the ambience captures the ethereal theme, the album’s coldness deflected any semblance of grandeur, leaving me alienated rather than integrally connected to this dark and floaty experience.