It’s been a long time without new solo albums by Christoph Heemann and I, for one, was missing them a lot. If there’s an artist whose individual music is perfectly symbolized by the worn out adjective “cinematic”, that’s the introvert gentleman from Aachen. Many illustrious projects have seen him as a fundamental contributor – HNAS, Seclusion, Mirror, In Camera to name a few, a collaborative effort with Charlemagne Palestine upcoming; still, there’s something in the personal releases that, by some means, distances this farsighted visionary from practically everybody. Maybe – just maybe – a comparable creative entity might correspond to Jim O’Rourke – not surprisingly an erstwhile Heemann collaborator – but the concoctions of altered reality and concreteness generated by this man are unambiguously unique, The Rings Of Saturn – a self-released limited edition – being no exception.
After an introductive collective conversation (Italians, of all humanity), the record starts to unveil its seducing grace, an untainted attractiveness that only recurring listens can really bring forth. Merging urban environments, chatting characters, kids at play, passing cars, birds in gardens and shoes on pavements – plus a myriad of other indecipherable, yet welcome to the ears sources – with absurdist takes on actuality, the composer explores the remote corners of the listener’s psyche, filling the surrounding air with materializations that get disfigured and processed that necessary bit to maintain their origin visible through delirious dreams. Case in point, the hilariously disquieting detuned-and-delayed marching band heard in the third movement before eloquently austere sounds of bells – first a railroad, then a church – take center stage, letting us in silent pondering. We’re used to listen to these manifestations, yet Heemann manages to make them appear as the most pleasant occurrence in the world.
A minute or so of cut-up including various scraps of muzak – typical of earlier masterpieces such as Invisible Barrier – introduces the fifth chapter, made of haunting aural snapshots characterized by the whistling voices of hundred of feathered creatures whose presence, aptly treated and mixed with the sound of automobiles, represents an ethereal apparition from which an ill-omened foreshadowing emerge under the guise of slowed-down, droning frequencies (possibly an elongated piano reverberation, but it could be anything). A fabulous moment of intense emotion, among the absolute best of the disc.
Much appreciated here are the glimpses of pregnant silence characteristic of rural areas at dawn, blackbirds and roosters mixing their existences while, somehow, a radio appears in the distant background to fade away almost instantly. A refreshing element of familiar awareness soon overwhelmed by a looming moan out of nowhere, as to remind that the end is never too far even when things get calmer. It’s doubtful that people untrained to this kind of introspection will be able to penetrate the essence of moments like this; luckily for them, a motorcycle and a dog promptly arrive to cement our feet in an unwelcome reality once and for all, despite the tolling from another bell tower ending the vision.
The sonic narrative is concluded by a track based on looped-and-destroyed orchestral fragments and mariachi-styled trumpets, an untitled piece of poignancy that, again, leaves the whole in a state of uncertainty and suspension, a “to be continued” of sorts which seals a stunning present for 2008’s Christmas. A superb release, destined to 100 lucky owners who – hopefully – don’t deserve to be called “latecomers”.