REVIEW: Thisquietarmy X Away – Machine Consciousness, Phase III

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What is machine consciousness? It sounds like some science-fiction concept that is destined to become the death of us all in a bombastic Hollywood fashion. In a more academic context, it is simply a term referring to an attempt to understand human consciousness using the methods of informational machines, such as neural networks. By this day and age, rather unsurprisingly, these informational machines have been put to good use in music production as well. The results have been nothing short of intriguing, to put it mildly, and not very far from the sonic tapestries on “Machine Consciousness, Phase III,” the latest collaborative endeavor of the sci-fi drone-metal duo, THISQUIETARMY X AWAY, comprised of guitarist Eric Quach of THISQUIETARMY and drummer Michel “Away” Langevin of Canadian prog-metal legends VOIVOD. This 6-track endeavor is an intriguing collection of psychedelia, freak-out fusion, progressive rock, kosmische musik, and free jazz, all mixed into the duo’s enthralling brand of space-rock improvisation. Released on the Consouling Sounds label on October 7th, 2022, this other-worldly sonic conjuration is an appropriate spiritual follow-up to THISQUIETARMY X AWAY‘s previous two interstellar incantations, “The Singularity, Phase I” (2020) and “The Singularity, Phase II” (2021), as well as to THISQUIETARMY‘s full-band opus, “The Body and the Earth” (2018).

The sonic trip begins with a nod to the early SydBarrett-era psychedelia of PINK FLOYD, especially those freaked-out instrumentals á la “Interstellar Overdrive.” So, I reckon this is some sort of ritual music, albeit a tad less shamanic and violent than, say, ORANSSI PAZUZU. The brass textures, in particular, add nice touches here and there. I’m not exactly a die-hard fan of these sorts of space jams but, then again, in the right frame of mind, highly immersive and ambient soundscapes like this are just what the doctor ordered. Even better, the songs crossfade into each other seamlessly, making the listening session into one continuous drone of inner bliss. The modus operandi is pretty much the same as on the 2014 joint venture, “Terrestrials,” by SUNN O))) and ULVER.

With music like this, it’s practically pointless to analyze the songs one-by-one; strictly speaking, the tracks on this outing are not exactly songs – they are snippets of emotions, streams of consciousness, or momentary lapses of the cosmic space-time continuum. No, this is not a record to put on while cruising down the highway – or, if you did put it on, you could risk getting sucked into the cosmic void. Paired with some meditation techniques or weird mind-altering chemicals, this is music that no doubt can provide your consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected inner visions, thoughts, and feelings, throwing open the doors of perception into worlds beyond your wildest imagination. There is a widespread myth that the human pineal gland can produce DMT, the most powerful hallucinogen in the world, under certain circumstances. Listening to this record might just provide those circumstances – but be warned: you test this assumption at your own risk. Then again, if you have a fetish for weird, analog synth sounds, this album is just for you. (Personally, I found the haunting synth pads on “Zeta 0000 1111” trippy as fuck! I bet even BURIAL would envy those textures…) 

This extraordinary collage of intergalactic sounds fits rather neatly right next to the awe-inspiring “Flux & Mutability” endeavor by David Sylvian and Holger Czukay of CAN, released in 1989. The album closer, “Eta 0001 0000,” wraps things up in a beautiful ocean of sound, one that you kind of wish would never stop flowing through you. As luck would have it, you can put this album on repeat and it suddenly tastes like infinity. I cannot avoid thinking about the famous quote from the American writer, Joseph Campbell, who once said, “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.” This type of music is not everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure, but I would like to think that this beautiful album speaks strongly to those who may exhibit some hidden mystical traits without even being aware of them.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Epsilon 0000 1011
  2. Epsilon 0000 1100
  3. Zeta 0000 1101
  4. Zeta 0000 1110
  5. Zeta 0000 1111
  6. Eta 0001 0000

Lineup

Eric Quach – guitars

Michel ”Away” Langevin – drums

Charles Bussières – bass

Reüel Ordoñez – brass

Label

Consouling Sounds

Links

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