“…the nuance of the playing and interaction is what lifts them from bleak and repetitive drone into something far more layered and interesting” – Ian Maleney on Mohammad‘s Som Sakrifis.
In searching for a new blend of classical music and electronics, the Greek trio Mohammad have sunk deep into the realms of monolithic sub-bass. They make monochrome, minor-key drone at its most restrained and enveloping. The bowed strings of the contrabass and cello mix in the depths with manipulated oscillator tones to create a swampy, oppressive atmosphere, devoid of ornamentation or frivolity.
The intense restraint is Som Sakrifis‘ defining factor, particularly on the first two tracks. Here the austere tone is so tightly wound that it feels like there is no room for anything else to exist within. It feels like a darkness that teems with its own native lifeforms, however skeletal and misanthropic they may be. They are of another world, whole and complex in their presentation.
The b-side sees the trio expand to fill the whole side of the record with one track and this leaves much more space within the piece. Moments of silence are broken by a slow, solitary beep before the strings come back in, stronger and more expressive than they were over the opening tracks. However, the increased dynamics are continually limited by the bass-heavy tone and the lack of colour in that sound. It feels repetitive over the 17-minute running time, like it is missing an element that would tie it all together. The piece almost seems like it should be accompanying dark, impressionist visuals though it lacks the power to create those visuals itself, something not so true of the first two tracks.
From the chest-rattling impact of dubstep through to bands like Sunn O))) and Swans, the power of bass has been pushed and explored at increasingly loud volumes over the past decade or more. Mohammad’s path to the bottom of the spectrum is a little different, reliant less on volume than pure tone and unflinching commitment to their aesthetic. While it easy to imagine these pieces performed live and at high volume, the nuance of the playing and interaction is what lifts them from bleak and repetitive drone into something far more layered and interesting. Volume will obscure that to a certain degree, though the sheer force of impact will obviously increase. At a more reasonable volume though, you might find yourself crawling down into the cesspit again and again to figure out what makes it so damn appealing.