On January 20, 2015, Bindrune and Eihwaz Recordings will release an unusual and unusually good split LP by a group of very talented composers and musicians — P.H. and U.K. of Germany’s Nachtreich and Ayloss of Spectral Lore from Greece — under the title The Quivering Lights. Today we bring you the premiere of one of the Spectral Lore tracks, “Quivering”.
The split is unusual because it is a genuine collaboration between the two bands rather than a mere compilation of independent recordings by each one. Each band recorded three songs, but the tracks are interwoven, with Nachtreich’s “Light” opening the album followed by the Spectral Lore song we’re premiering today. Two more Nachtreich tracks then follow (an instrumental piece named “Greyness”, and “Ghost Light”), followed by the last two Spectral Lore tracks (“Vanishing” and a final instrumental work, “Reflection”).
“Light” was composed first, and with that as a first step, the two bands developed a concept for the rest of the album, with each successive song composed as a kind of “response” to another; “Quivering was a response to “Lights”, “Ghost Lights” to “Quivering”, and “Vanishing” to “Ghost Lights”. “Greyness” (Nachtreich’s instrumental) is used as the connecting interlude, and “Reflection” (Spectral Lore’s instrumental piece, which ends the album) is a response to “Greyness”, as well as including other themes from throughout the split.
The album also displays a kind of symmetry, with the first two songs followed by an instrumental track, and then two more songs followed by a closing instrumental. In addition, Nachtreich played violas in the Spectral Lore tracks and Spectral Lore performed drums and guitars and handled the mixing of Nachtreich’s “Ghost Lights”.
As for the album’s concept, it was inspired by the metaphorical struggle between Dionysus and Apollo, sometimes described as the conflict between reason and emotion or between order and chaos (go here for an overview). Spectral Lore’s Ayloss explains:
“This is an album that speaks about spiritual decay and the eternal battle between the Dionysian and the Apollonian soul. Words, actions, ideals and pleasure; all great, opposing forces that mark the battlefield of man’s destiny in disproportionate ways. How can we know that we’ve taken the right path? Life’s stopwatch is mercilessly running backwards. Somewhere, there is vibrancy to be found. Elsewhere, the coldness of complete detachment.”
The album as a whole is an entrancing atmospheric work of mainly neoclassical music, one in which the principal instrumental roles in the songs of both bands are filled by piano, stringed instruments such as violin and viola, and acoustic guitar, rather than the conventional instruments of metal. But there are also carefully placed passages of black metal, used to amplify the emotional intensity of the music, and they are important in the album’s narrative flow even if less prominent in duration.
Music is an inherently interactive experience, perhaps especially in primarily instrumental works such as this one: The musicians have their own inspirations and purposes, and the listeners find their own stories and experience their own emotions as they hear what has been created. The Quivering Lights is an extended revery; it kindles the imagination and induces reflection, and it makes an emotional connection that’s deep and lasting.
There is an arc in the musical narrative. For my own part of this interactive experience, I felt the change of seasons, a representation of the movement from early autumn into the grey cold of winter. The piano and violin duet of “Lights” sounds like the shimmer of sun on a drifting stream, with the beginning of a chill in the air as a wash of distortion appears near the end of the track. By the time “Vanishing” reaches an intense crescendo of sound near its end (one of the Spectral Lore tracks in which black metal plays a vital role), the frigid blasts of winter have arrived.
There are other narratives in the music as well, more closely connected to what inspired the musicians, with each song melodically connected to the one before it in ways that make clear this is a unified work despite the participation of two different bands. And so, in the poetic lyrical narrative, Apollo kills Dionysius in “Vanishing”. “Yet, while he remains pure, cold, and sterile, / The stars no longer answer. / And all Light is now made from Ghosts”. Yet as the ghosts beckon the narrator to join them, his dream remains, a river gushing with blood, “true and vengeful” — and he runs to it.
“Vanishing” is the album’s climax, yet it’s not the end. It’s followed by the slow, reverberating acoustic guitar notes in “Reflection”, which is indeed a musical meditation on what has come before, both sombre and with hints of shimmering beauty at the end, as if to say the lights of the beginning have not all been transformed into the cold lost souls of phantasms.
The song you’re about to hear, “Quivering”, is only the second track in this six-track, multiply layered narrative, one that begins only about seven minutes into a 45-minute work, a step along the path that eventually leads from light to darkness, and reflection. It picks up a motif from the piano / violin duet in “Lights” and then begins to take a more ominous and urgent turn with the appearance of harsh vocals, heavy riffs, and double-bass rolls. Even when the piano reappears near the end, joined by acoustic guitar, the chords are heavy and deep.
In “Quivering”, a change has begun in the emotional resonance of the music, one that continues over the course of the subsequent tracks. One downside of plucking a single track from a long, interconnected work such as this one is that you miss something through the loss of context. But even standing along, it’s a wonderful piece of music, and one that I hope will intrigue you enough to want to hear this beautiful, amazing album all the way through when you have the chance. The Quivering Lights will pull you, entranced, into its own magical world — it’s a remarkable experience not to be missed.