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Undermathic: "Return to Childhood"

img  Tobias

As anyone with an unhealthy obsession with sci-fi and cinema will know, „Building Better Worlds“ was the slogan of Weyland-Yutani, the evil and über-greedy mega-corporation making Sigourney Weaver's job in the „Alien“ series even more horrible than a bunch of acid-bleeding xenomorphs already did. On a more positive note, however, it was also the secret mission of a lot of 70s Krautrock- and Electronica-bands, whose albums were typically designed as multi-sensorial experiences and veritable „trips“ rather than just simple works of music. Even though most of these formations had of course already ceased to exist by the time Maciej Paszkiewicz was born, it is hard not to feel as though their spirit had somehow seeped through to him. You can feel the pulse of pioneerism rushing through the eleven tracks of his first full-length under the Undermathic-banner as well as a pronounced feeling for flow, form, floatation and the organic interlocking of epically-mapped-out structures. Despite these obvious allusions to a system of psychedelic metaphors, however, „Return to Childhood“ comes without the cosmic absurdities attached to some of its predecessors – this is a journey inwards.

As with any noteworthy debut, the album is ambitious beyond belief. Paszkiewicz has taken every single aspect of the production into his own hands, handling Guitars, Drums and Electronics and even mastering duties. This monopolistic compositional approach has not only resulted in an equally  cinematic and crystaline sound, but also in a convoluted cornucopia of styles and influences: Succulent Post-Glitch, slow-stepping IDM and retro-futuristic Ambient are fueled by dream-time beats, massive Guitar crunches and romantic melodies. Ethereal Piano and majestic Strings are juxtaposed with the full force of 21st century technology. Merciless power meets refined and meticulously detailed textures brimming with energy and pent-up aggression. Everything is held together by a personal concept apparently dealing with the loss of one's innocence and the enduring possibility of hope. However weakly the latter's embers may be glowing, their faint presence casts a bright light on the dark body of „Return to Childhood“, shining through in the booklet's emotionally torn liner notes, which claim that „it's good to be silent together, it's good to understand each other without words, it's good to recognise yourself beside someone“, before arriving at the conclusion that „everything is different today“ and „I don't have any more places to run to“.

In fact, though, it seems as though the exact opposite were true: It is the fascinatingly threedimensional places that Paszkiewicz keeps running to here which make „Return to Childhood“ such an utterly hypnotic experience. At a first glance, his talent for mesmerising melodicism and lyrical themes appears to be at the centre: Opener „Independence“ is shaken by disturbing metal-riff-flashbacks, as an initially simple motive gradually develops through the debris, later appearing in truncated and more lavish form, as an ephemeral classical reverie and a concentrated reprise. On „Submissive Woman“, on the other hand, upwardly cascading irridescent intervals are a striking contrast to the industrial rawness of the underlying rhythm-track. Increasingly, the album develops a pull through the way that pieces are linked and connected, keeping a flow over a stretch of two or more tracks, cleverly bending it until something entirely different emerges. Short, seemingly unspectacular works act as intermissions, seamlessly segueing different sections of the album with each other without ever allowing the tension curve to drop. By creating these interlocking sequences, time is drastically distorted and all sense of direction is lost, with only recurring timbral colours creating cohesion and orientation. One is reminded of the way progressive rock groups like to split their songs into several parts within a suite or cycle – only that this one encompasses the entire duration of the disc.

Again and again, Paszkiewicz slows down the maelstrom to allow for more subdued and almost tender moments to blossom or switches from one extreme to the other and back again – such as on the fatalistic „Entropy“, which shifts from a long Dark Ambient-intro to a polyrhythmic, exotically-tinged onslaught of garbage-can-grooves and back to a hybrid between deep, delicious pastoralism and apocalyptic shardes of glass and metal. On „Everything too Late“, fieldrecordings of playing children are melting with intimate crackle and warmly simmering soundscapes, but only a second later, the nervous palpatations are back, the subcutaneous itch and doubts return and things grind to an uneasy halt.

It is never an easy journey he is taking his listeners on and with his penchant for irritation and gloom, Paszkiewicz may at times seem like a man posessed. Perhaps, however, he has merely come to the conclusion that even building better worlds will not yield perfection. As „Return to Childhood“ impressively demonstrates, though, it is always worth trying.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Undermathic
Homepage: Tympanik Audio Records

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