[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
Some would ask why an album like this exists. Is it an existential exercise? An intellectual curiosity? Could it be that those who are behind this are simply too far gone and out to recognize where they even are anymore… no, ‘An Anatomy of Melancholy’ is not any of these, it is instead a grander excursion to a remote and solitary locale. There are no neighbors here to bother you, the view is spectacular and the birds, yes those birds. If the vinyl is any kind of indicator of those then it would seem that not only are they visible but parts of them have been taken and then pressed (literally) into the grooves. The color is blood red, the intention is quite clear here; an insert removes any doubt as to what we’re partaking in:
“May Pain be My Reward”
And pain there is to be found upon this release. It does not come in an overpowering wave, there aren’t any wails or lamentations, no singular moment of trans formative nadir will rise above the sun to eclipse it. No, rather it moves delicately under the cover of the six pieces on the record and additional four on a bonus cd-r with the loving title ‘St. Francis Receives the Stigmata’. Having now listened to the Kollektiva for a few years it was not hard to see that this was where things were heading, especially after the trilogy of digital EPs which they released last year. While those had a chaotic and angrily discordant tone to them, this realm of melancholy is for the most part a very tranquil place. Memory flares throughout the run of their latest with several movements blurring the boundaries between what is and what was. However, and most interestingly, this collective are moving towards a realization that I cannot wait for them to act upon.
Every one of these tracks could work as a score for film. If only there were a studio and a director with the guts to engage their services; you can feel all the beats of the cinema across this record, here we breathe an exclusively celluloid atmosphere. But beyond the whirring of cameras or the whispering of post production editing suites there is yet another layer to take in and that is one which you must pay unrelenting attention for otherwise you’ll miss it and all will be lost.
The space between those guitar strings and the fret boards they hover over has not been this thoroughly explored before; when the fingers come down and the humming tones are conjured up out of absolutely nothing what sort of terrain would you say you’re in? I had no idea that this much could be coaxed (and sometimes corralled) from just six strings but I’m starting to see what an amazing spectrum resides just under those pieces of nylon or steel. The sparseness some of these arrangements appear to be pooled from is a deception, there are endless avenues of resonating frequencies to wander down and investigate. You can almost visualize the world around you being slowly eaten away by the relentless intensity this ritualistic sort of performance demarcates; it isn’t wise to stare too deeply into ‘An Anatomy of Melancholy’, however.
Once you have studied the artwork for it you will begin to notice that there are indeed objects not at rest, but in motion. My guess is that the front cover is a close up of someone’s iris in negative… it contains an emptiness at the core; in the void at the heart of things where time becomes little more than a word is where you’re going to wind up should you pass through and emerge on the other side. Yes, there is darkness here and there is forlorn, acrimonious suffering but there is also hope and above all else: peace. If this is how things are going to evolve over the course of life then so be it; one cannot know absolute bliss without first passing through the depths of boundless misery. Maybe that is the subtext going on and maybe it isn’t but if you’re still reading this then you’re probably going to wind up owning a copy.
‘An Anatomy of Melancholy’ went through many trials and tribulations of it’s own just to emerge and while it is steeped in literary influence it is by no means inaccessible. They are, if anything, just as those they make passing reference to… researchers of the sublime. More than that, they wish to understand the nuance and subtlety by which everything around us is governed.
They’re hardly alone in this.