[Reviewed by stark]
In the past I have expressed my awe towards “Svetacjam”, the previous Pragnavit full length, one of my favourite ambient albums ever. A phenomenal call of Nature, being to ambient what Gogol is to literature, or Tarkovsky to cinema; you may laugh, I don’t mind. Rooted to the core in Eastern pagan tradition, being a tribute to the elements, old deities and the wild, taking the listener centuries back into a land of endless forests, mighty rivers and acres of lands without human presence.
Meanwhile there was the split with Gyvata released in 2010, but apart from that, “Skarby Zmiainaha Karala” (“Treasures of the Serpent King”) is his first album since 10 years. And it’s different: more profusely ornamented with sounds, instruments, field recordings and voices. The atmosphere seems a tiny bit lighter, but fear not – the spirit is maintained.
‘What about the atmosphere?’ you may ask, reacting to my characterization of the album as ‘light’ with a certain dose of skepticism. No worries, the music hasn’t lost anything of its heathen spirituality. It’s just that there’s not so much fear against the almighty ancient forces forged in these sounds. There is some, but it is respect which prevails. Respect without subservience. Also, it has a kind of storytelling features, while “Svetacjam” can be considered as a melodic and harmonic, but abstract painting of Nature. Here you may tell the story on your own, create it in your head; a legend or a fairy. With this music to accompany the process, the story will to a large extent develop in your imagination by itself.
As you may remember, the previous album was based on synths and field recordings, with a touch of ancient instruments here and there. This time the Belarussian project used a wider range of means of expression. There’s an electric guitar in “Zamknionyja Koŭraty Jaryły” and “Dzury”, and traditional folk chants in several tracks, including the two mentioned above. Acoustic guitar brings the music closer even to neofolk aesthetics, like in “Dziadoŭskaje Sonca” or “Zmiainy Ŭładar”, where the guitar is accompanied by the sounds of a flute and some mysterious whispers. These songs are so amazing, melancholic and marked with something that may remind one of… hope.
What would it be without drones and field recordings though. The synth soundscapes are still present, obviously, often establishing a foundation and ornamentation, but barely dominating a composition from beginning to end. Each composition is very rich and diverse; let’s take for example “Visažar Zornych Nietraŭ”, starting with drums and native instruments which morph into some melodic drones lasting for a while, until the finale of the song, again in a neofolk spirit.
And those field recordings: water streams, wind, crows. They’re giving so much space here, you’re no longer in your tiny apartment in a big city, but back there and then, when the Sun was God. This is it, despite all the current antagonisms, conflicts and stuff, this album still reminds us who we are. This is the Slavonic spirit.