[Reviewed by stark]
I wouldn’t say I am a diehard Hoarfrost fan, but I definitely appreciate Rafal’s idea of music. He started his activity almost ten years ago with an industrial dark ambient sound, strongly influenced by the place where he lives (as well as I, since we both come from Upper Silesia, the most industrialized region of Poland), not that far from other “neighbouring” projects such as Moan or Dead Factory. With time and with each new release he began to experiment with other ambient subgenres, moving the centre of gravity from abandoned mines, steel mills and factories to something less obvious, but more spiritual. I daresay that “Anima Mundi” is his best work up to this moment.
It has been released by the interesting Swedish label Reverse Alignment on CD in 300 copies. And if you’re expecting music of rusty machines decaying in a post-industrial environment, you can easily forget about it. Only echoes of these remain, present in the occasional metal clangs scattered all over the wasteland. Some of these, and the other noises were provided by the guys from Genetic Transmission and Synapsis. Rafal also invited a guitarist and a cellist to enrich the soulless and synthetic structure with live instruments. And what’s more important, once again he works with Hekte Zaren, a female experimental vocalist related to the black metal scene. All this might give you a general idea of “Anima Mundi”. It’s strongly influenced by neoclassical forms and – luckily – because of its lack of pompousness and bombastic tendencies we can consider it as dark ambient chamber music. It also has quite an illustrative aspect, that would rather fit a theatrical play than a movie. Hekte Zaren screams, cries, sings in an opera manner, whispers tenderly. The cello parts are building drama and tension, and the ambient soundscapes give a vast and deep background. It’s very good that, sometimes balancing on the verge, Rafal never crosses the boundary on the other side of which there’s but a straight road to a dull and pretentious, gothic-influenced sound.
I won’t lie, it isn’t my most beloved form of ambient as I prefer a more abstract approach. Also I’m not a big fan of such an extensive use of voice in this kind of music – I wouldn’t be adverse to a few tracks being one hundred percent instrumental, so that you have to invent the whole story by yourself in your head. Or just perceive the music in a state of half consciousness, using it as an aural drug. But this is the musician’s idea and nothing is left to chance here. The concept is deliberate and a few moments are really very cool. Like the last two tracks, “In Hopeless Mazes” with a crazy guitar work and the seventeen-minute-long “Medeaeternum” driven by industrial/noise soundscapes and insane vocal parts by Hekte Zaren.
It’s been about five years since the previous Hoarfrost full-length. It’s obvious that Rafal didn’t idle away during that time. “Anima Mundi” is thorough, complex and surely worth a couple of listens. Or more if you like female voice in ambient.