Review Summary: Despair induces a truly bizarre experience, but sadly, that's all this album has to offer.
Musique concrète has often been a misunderstood genre in the mainstream audience. The genre is defined by the usage of experimental techniques within the musical orchestrations. The fundamental principle of Musique concrète lies in the assemblage of various natural sounds that are recorded and then composed as one montage of sounds that acts as a musical piece. The genre has also become synonymous with Noise music. Noise music, as its name implies, uses the combination of natural soundscapes, acoustically or electronically generated noise, as well as traditional and unconventional musical instruments, as a musical resource. Many compositions, from both genres, often produce a bizarre sound. Musical pieces coated in obscurity and even ominous atmospheric textures.
There are two themes that seem to surface throughout the essence of Despair
, the first being disturbance. All of the compositions are named after films directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, an art-house filmmaker who viewed his works as a desire to provoke and disturb the witnessing audiences. The second theme is aberrancy. The artwork for Despair is quite reminiscent of the surrealistic visual styles used by artists, René Magritte and Salvador Dali. The cover art displays a person whose face is covered in by a cloth, a reference to Magritte's portrait, "The Lovers". There is also an egg that sits at top of the person's head, yet another reference, but this time to Salvador Dali's work who used the image of an egg in several paintings as a connection to the prenatal and intrauterine- often using it to symbolize birth, hope, and love. The image in the artwork of Despair is also upside down, referring back to the first theme of disturbance, reflecting the perceptual uneasiness of this album.
As I said before, the music of the album seems to follow the principles of these two themes. The soundscapes used in the music produces a truly ominous experience, one that induces a sensation of discomfort. Despair opens with "In einem Jahr mit 13"
, releasing a series of both electrical and ambient sound passages, consisting of field recordings and synthesizer effects, that appear to repeat throughout the album until arriving to the final track. It seems that this sense of obscurity and repetition in the musical orchestration is suppose to induce a hypnotic effect, and that is perhaps the one and only redeeming aspect of this album. Despair is certainly a surrealistic listen, and right from the beginning the music prevails in surrounding us in a bizarre environment, but the soundscapes aren't even captivating enough to actually coax us with a desire to actually listen to it in full.
by The Beatles serves as an example of entertaining Musique concrète/Noise music in popular culture. "Revolution 9"
, as abnormal as the composition may be, it was, at the very least, captivating. It was a montage of different sounds but with each second that passed, it progressed, taking us to different musical dimensions and constantly exposing us to something new- and as strange as the experience may have been, it made us curious to see where exactly it was taking us, making it worth giving our attention. But Despair, on the other hand, is nothing more but the same sounds being repeated, offering nothing that really manages to hold our interest. Despair is certainly an ambitious effort, and it is admirable to see Omar branching out into different musical realms, but this is certainly a failed experiment.