It’s always a pleasure to hear from the Finnish soundmeister Kenneth Kovasin a.k.a. ówt krì. Both “New Seed” and “Pilgrimage” are thought-provoking and mind-opening in a way that we’re allowed to develop our own thoughts without any form of prescription or polluting start point. I spoke with Kenneth at ProgPower Europe recently and asked him about this latest release. Seemingly the plan was originally to create a split on the subject of the Spanish Inquisition but now I gathered that “Ximenes” is a minimalist and meditative work featuring historical Catholic chants with voice loops. The Ximenes of the title refers to Ximenes de Cisneros, religious reformer and inquisitor. I took the plunge.
“Sacra Tenebris” sounds like we’re heading off into voids. There’s a dark drone. The room is black or that’s how I imagine it to be. Dare I mention From the Bogs of Aughiska? But this is more spiritual. It’s the layers that make it more scary because as a female voice breathes in and out like a ghost, the religious chant continues without abatement. My wife was listening in to this experience, and commented that in her native Malaysia this would be called hantu music. Hantu is Malay for ghost. Whether it’s in Malaysia, UK or Kenneth’s native Finland, this is from another world. And that’s what’s interesting. There is no place for the everyday here but it is the everyday in a sense, as it’s like a heartbeat or a series of unsubstantiated thoughts. “Resurrexit Dominus” is minimalist in its quiet piano sound but the haunting echoes continue. Some may find this nightmarish and threatening. Some may find it the music of voids and space. It may be the sounds of a cloudy mind. Noting that the chants are catholic, there is clearly a religious spirituality here. We can all have our interpretations, and that’s a good thing, but I felt a mixture of many worldly things, which I’m not so sure about. In fact “Regina Caeli” in particular reminded me of Tibetan chants but it doesn’t have the power. This is haunting with its wavy echoes and layers. It is experimentation in sounds, which challenge us and hypnotise us. I felt a strong connection with Om, the Hindu concept referring to the natural vibration of the universe. But should I be feeling a connection with anything?
As the world of ówt krì passes slowly by like meteors in space, I felt heightened human intervention in “Veni Creator Spiritus”. A voice speaks distantly as if penetrating a thick church wall, but is superseded by a higher pitched voice. Obscurity is the mainstay of this work, but what can it all mean? Faint industrial type noises then peer through “Parce Domine” as the haunting, echoing voices work through their loop. It is clear that the electronic elements of ówt krì are secondary here to the range of voices. “This would be good for a Chinese funeral”, commented my co-listener. “Whoever wrote this must be depressed”. Actually I didn’t see that. I imagined voids of the mind and expanse. Yes, I imagined a form of austerity, and it’s certainly solemn but through the chants comes an array of intriguing audible images depicting sweeping spiritualism. Slowly deep and sophisticated sounds sweep through “Ad Caelum” like waves. Breathing, whistling voids and the deadened sound of bells, indeed indefinable ghostly images provide the tranquil and foggy atmosphere. The word “ambient” has never found a more apt home than on “Ad Caelum” or “Ximenes” as a whole.
A self-imposed problem I had with this is that I am used to hearing Buddhist chants, and for such an outer worldly work as “Ximenes”, it doesn’t help or work to compare real life experience. Having a religious or a recognizable context or subject matter isn’t helpful. For maximum appreciation it pays not to have that distraction. I didn’t have this with the more fluid “Pilgrimage” (2016), the previous album from ówt krì. I found that I got the best out of this album when eventually casting out worldly comparisons and imbibing the gloomy, ghostly soundscapes that Kenneth has prepared for us. It’s worth the time investment. “Ximenes” is the collation of a range of sounds, which calmly invade, sweep through the mind and create a deep meditative experience. It’s gloomy and innovative but I’d suggest it’s cleansing too.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)