ALBUM REVIEW: SARRAM - Pàthei Màthos
Updated: Sep 20
AMBIENT DRONE PACKS AN EMOTIONAL PUNCH
An opaque one-person multi-instrumentalist, Valerio Marras is the be-shrouded brainchild of SARRAM. The inspiration he cites for Pàthei Màthos is heavy material indeed: the ancient Greek tragedy Aeschylus’ Agamemmon which stirred him to explore the work’s concept of wisdom through suffering. That alone is probably enough to confirm this isn’t going to be a metalcore record. Instead, and more befitting of the said heady literary material, Pàthei Màthos (loosely translated as learn a lesson) is an instrumental odyssey of shimmering drone and ambient mysticism.
With its menacing quasi-white noise, the opener A Floating Sun gives the misleading hint that this album will be discordant psychologically jarring apocalyptic ambience similar to Tribes of Neurot. While it does set out an netherworld-like intensity that is consistent throughout the record, Pàthei Màthos thenceforward pursues a range of emotional wends.
The title track is a stand-out with its droning backdrop of sepulchral shadowy reverb, understated bell chimes, crackling draughts of static, and waves of indistinct whispers. Front and centre though is the ethereal chanted vocals of performative Italian mad cap Lili Refrain (who is almost like an underground gothic Bjork). These combined elements give this both a brooding menace and spiritual solemnity. Elsewhere the likes of the arcane mystique Korimai continues to delve into otherworldly ambient dreaminess. The pastoral, chants of leftfield arthouse experimental vocalist Delila Kayros give this a bucolic twilight aesthetic but the druidic airiness is offset by tense and unsettling pulsing static.
A well-timed uplifting piece of warmth arrives with the almost Buddhist meditative aesthetic of Lotus Quest. Be-forested and soothing synths, strings and gentle guitar chords interplay upliftingly and quite spectacularly to give this a peace-in-nature atmosphere. The concluding track, Long Live, Farewell eases into a surrendered and wistful piece of indistinct reflection of skeletal plucks and high-altitude synths.
One of the structural devices that re-appears across this album is anchoring a track into a bedrock of an insistent, repetitive refrain and building upon it incrementally with rising ambience and layering. One of the restrained and plainest examples of this is the lonely sparse plink plonking of keys on Zarola where the entire track is founded on a circular, reflective piano line. Elsewhere the incongruously titled Slow Care, Heavy Wires is perhaps the one few tracks that belies a rock background with unhurried, fuzzy down-tuned doomy grunge chords again used as a lynchpin to the track and decorated with rousing strings and synths and a psychedelic shimmering sombreness. Simple yet vivid.
Many album reviews are fond of describing atmospheric music as cinematic but Pàthei Màthos does have a soundtrack feel rather than a conventional record. The tracks blend into each other and yet are distinct. Where ambience or drone often sink into indulgence, or tedium there is a sense that this record has been put together with care so it doesn’t disappear into itself. It probably doesn’t need to be said that Pàthei Màthos requires immersive listener commitment to appreciate the emotional, otherworldly meditation but the rewards are high.
Pàthei Màthos is available via Subsound Records