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Jarl - Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation (2016) - Review

Band: Jarl
Album title: Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation
Release date: 28 March 2016
Label: Reverse Alignment

01: Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation

"Electronic and acoustic sounds for the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions. For the right and left side of Amygdala"

Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation, the second release by Jarl on Reverse Alignment, displays a masterful use of drone, ambient, and industrial sounds blended into the signature "Jarlish" sound. Prepare for a journey into the mind that is equal parts nightmare and psychedelic dream. Jarl's blend of electronic and acoustic treatments are focused in on manipulating the Amygdala, the part of the brain where the processing of memory, decision-making, and emotional reactions occur. This is a deep and sometimes harsh 55 minute trip into the depths of the mind and one that requires the listeners' full attention in order to be properly appreciated.

It may seem like an album focusing on playing tricks on the mind, by building layers of sound which slowly become audible and then disappear, is a tall order for a musician. Yet, Erik Jarl seems to be the perfect artist to undertake this venture. With years of experience in industrial, ambient, and other genres of music through his solo albums and through his work in IRM and other collaborations, he has the abilities and tools at hand to delve into a project, which will send the listener on such a complex and unexpected journey.

Jarl's devastatingly dark psychedelic sounds are mastered by the dark ambient icon Peter Andersson, of raison d'être fame, who is no stranger to working with music focused on manipulating the mental state of the listener, often through unconventional means. Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation must be listened to with the proper left/right alignment of your stereo, or with a set of headphones, in order to appreciate the depths of the album properly.

Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation starts off slowly and quietly with a gently pulsating drone and a bit of organic atmosphere. By the four minute mark the volume has gently risen while new layers are being introduced, some deep throbbing undertones, some high pitch noises that could be anything yet they seem to have a sinister motivation. By the twelve minute mark the album is reaching a climax, bringing the listener to the edge of sanity and reason. By this point the mind has begun to play tricks, certain layers have disappeared without a trace and been replaced with something new yet the shift was never pronounced. This high-point continues for several more minutes building up an emotional and physical awareness all the while. The intensity slowly begins to recede almost unnoticeably, giving the listener a bit of solace before turning it back to maximum intensity once more. This rise and fall, along with the a constant pulsating between the left and right speakers, is part of what works so well at pulling the listener into the mix and allowing them to become totally immersed in the album.

The album art is quite impressive and adds to the concept very nicely. This photography and layout was conceived by the highly talented Karolina Urbaniak whose works can be seen at her publishing company Infinity Land Press in association with Martin Bladh, the other founding member of IRM. As I listened to Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotation I found it necessary to allow my full attention to be focused on the sounds, after several minutes of listening with my eyes closed, I viewed the album art while continuing to listen. These photographs are at once subtle yet unexpectedly complex. Focusing in on the details of the album art, all sorts of imagery begins to manifest. Dark metallic textures allow sinister figures to take form among glacial rocky crags within their complexities. I urge listeners to give this album art a thorough observation at least once while listening, and then ask yourself if anything you saw was really there, or intended. Whatever the case, it is the perfect fit for this sound and experience.

There is something about Erik Jarl's devastating sounds that I can tolerate more than other artists that make albums of this level of intensity. No headache, no urge to turn it off at the halfway mark. Furthermore, there is a uniqueness to Jarl that makes his vision work for the listener as a deeply moving emotional experience. If you can find the time to devote an hour to music, what is held within this album is quite moving, and not to be taken in passing. Amygdala Colours - Hemisphere Rotations is one of my favorite releases from Erik Jarl to date because it does a fantastic job of encapsulating so much of what makes him a unique artist and delivers it in a darkly focused and psychedelically hypnotic experience. Every play-through seems to pull new sounds and emotions to the forefront. I would highly recommend this release to anyone willing to challenge their senses to an hour-long journey which is sure to leave an impression on the listener, as it drags you through the depths of your own mind.

Review written by: Michael
Rating: 9/10