Before I sat down to listen to Jeremiah Cymerman’s Decay of the Angel, I studied the album art and noticed the note at the end of the Bandcamp description, “For maximum experience, listening with headphones or on loud speakers is strongly encouraged. – The composer”.
Immediately, it is apparent that Cymerman intends not only to engage, but stimulate and even startle our senses. I put the headphones in, as instructed, and felt like I was walking through the soundtrack of a mind in a dark place. The third track, “Spheres of Dissonance,” brings on panic. We hear Cymerman use the clarinet as we would our own voices in a state of great unease. He creates stretches of sound that are interrupted only by a break in their path, squeaking as notes break apart and collapse. Though each track is slightly different in tone, the album conveys an overall heaviness. The clarinet hums and whines in what feels like pain.
There are moments of recovery throughout Decay of the Angel, where we almost find peace and contentment. The title track is a release from the sentiments expressed in the first three tracks. The landscape feels natural, as reflected in the cover art, and is like walking through the woods. However, as branches move softly and the creek just under your feet flows, your solitude weighs on you. It is calm, and sound no longer screeches in agony, but there is no warmth and you have yet to find pleasure. The mood of this track, like much of the album, was parallel to my experience with the art. Both the sonic and visual art express what seems to represent an absence of people and the maddening quiet the mind can sometimes find itself in. The word “decay” seems appropriate for this work as well. It sounds like energy is breaking down in noise crying out and then finding stillness. My body becomes stiff and tight . . .
“The Body Becomes Fetid” begins slowly. The clarinet slides into our ears and plays alongside percussion. It reminds me of bugs swarming and moving into a cloud. They buzz and move in one place and quickly change direction, creating a dark fog. I could feel the motion of this track in the way the clarinet created long and short waves of sound. The following and final song, “Out of Many Waters” allows the listener to find relief from the darker landscape Cymerman has given us. I do not feel lost in the back of my mind anymore, troubled by something beyond me, but like I have found a place to collect myself from the prior emotional, or, psychological impact. This is a beautiful conclusion to a deeply emotive album. I felt Cymerman created a work that both took me to places I do not want to look at within my own mind, as well in nature. Throughout this record I felt lost in the woods at night, walking through terrain I could not easily navigate, but continue trying to, to find a way out.
Decay of the Angel was released on 5049 Records on August 16.