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Mathias Grassow
Transpersonal


4.5
superb

Review

by JamieTwort USER (35 Reviews)
November 11th, 2013 | 44 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist


The mental image is an interesting phenomenon. From its variance in clarity to the mental process from which it is constructed, there is a certain ambiguity that surrounds mental imagery. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about it is the varying possibilities of that which it stems from. Whether it is conjured up from memories of past events or realised more spontaneously through that which reaches our senses, this visualisation within the mind can often defy ordinary perception.

While perhaps not commonly associated with the act of listening to music, the mental image can become a key part of one’s listening experience, particularly when the music is as evocative as that of ambient artist Mathias Grassow. Grassow’s ambient drones and soundscapes are designed not only to engross the listener in the atmosphere they create but also to bring to the fore the listener's own feelings and emotions.

Grassow’s 2007 album, Transpersonal, manages to bring out the thoughts of one’s own imagination and simultaneously conjure up imagery that whilst unique to each individual listener, is shaped to a certain degree by the album itself. The field recordings that accompany much of the album give Transpersonal a loose theme based around nature that seemingly focusses on the atmosphere and stillness of lonely, undisturbed outdoor spaces. This theme is further enhanced by the album’s artwork, a seemingly simple photograph of a still, motionless river that when looked at with further contemplation, reveals itself as a very intriguing and symbolic image. The main body of the photograph appears to depict the surface of a still, undisturbed river but in actuality the image looks beyond the water’s surface (figuratively speaking) and focusses on what is being reflected, thus providing a representation of what lies exterior to the image. The artwork further intensifies the reflective and ambiguous nature of the music within, whilst, perhaps most importantly, shaping the imagery that the music evokes.

Transpersonal is comprised of three lengthy compositions, all of which surpass the twenty minute mark. All three of these pieces evoke different feelings and emotions within the listener and possess a distinct character of their own, splitting Transpersonal into three very distinguished chapters. First track, Breathing of the Heart is the longest of the three pieces and is perhaps the album's most successful piece in terms of providing an expressive platform for one’s own thoughts and visualisations. Its combination of dark minimal soundscapes and layers of background sounds and field recordings creates a feeling of melancholic contemplation, whilst conjuring up imagery of dark, secluded spaces. The subtle sounds of birds twittering are exemplary of the theme of nature that runs through Transpersonal, evoking the kind of atmosphere one might feel when taking a long walk through dense woodland with nothing but one’s own contemplative thoughts for company.

The album’s centrepiece, the appropriately named Evoking the Stillness, is the lightest of the album’s three pieces, possessing a much more uplifting and positive atmosphere than the two tracks either side of it. The spacious nature of this particular piece inspires imagery of perfectly still, undisturbed water presenting the clearest of reflections, or perhaps a faintly defined cloud formation in a pale grey sky. The openness of these slow, evocative waves of sound provides a complete contrast to the claustrophobic and dense sounds of the album’s closing piece Inner Temple. Whereas Evoking the Stillness had been void of any of the nature-themed field recordings heard in Breathing of the Heart, Inner Temple is laden with sounds of rushing water and wildlife, the latter dominated by the almost overbearing and somewhat unsettling sound of crickets in the grass. These sound effects create imagery of long, thick grassland and dense undergrowth obscuring all but the occasional glimpse a river as a soft light fights its way through and reflects off the water’s surface. While this is by far the album’s least accessible piece, it is in some ways its most effective in terms creating a specific visual setting within the mind of the listener.

As a whole Transpersonal is everything an ambient album should be and much more. It expresses a variety of intense moods and emotions that take the listener on an audio and visual journey through their own mind as well as providing an insight into that of its creator. The way in which the album manages to summon and shape one’s mental imagery, through its use of field recordings and carefully composed soundscapes, makes for an almost cinematic experience, an experience that relies very much on the creativity of the listener’s mind and their willingness to embrace the atmosphere of the music.

Grassow has dedicated Transpersonal to the memory of musician Klaus Weiss who at the time of the album’s release had recently passed away. The melancholic nature of the music undoubtedly reflects Grassow’s own feelings relating to the passing of his friend, but, by the very definition of its title, Transpersonal is an album that goes far beyond the personal thoughts of one individual.



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user ratings (10)
4.2
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Tried something a bit different with this review. Comments and constructive criticism would be much appreciated.

somnolence
November 11th 2013


405 Comments


boring! fell asleep havey through it (xD)

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


lol

KILL
November 11th 2013


81238 Comments


gd review dude, would like to see you do a negative one tho

maybe sound awake ;)

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Thanks bro. Yeah I plan on doing a negative review soon as the lowest I've ever done is a 3 and that was a few years ago.

Dunno about doing a Karnivool album, I'll probably be more inclined to do a weak album by a band/artist I actually like for my first negative review.

LifeAsAChipmunk
November 11th 2013


4852 Comments


pos'd. not a fan of this guy tho.

mindleviticus
November 11th 2013


10295 Comments


dis is good stuff

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Thanks Cyg.

@Captain: I think I rec'd you this a while ago as my interpretation of it (as explained in the review) relates to the link between visual and audio which we were talking about for the ambient project we were working on. So yeah definitely check it out.

Amphoteric
November 11th 2013


2014 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Grassow is such an underrated musician.. not in terms of people thinking it's not as good as it really is obviously, but in terms of deserving much more recognition.

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


@Cap: No need to apologise bro, just saying why I think this will be of particular interest to you.

@Amphoteric: Agreed.

manosg
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


12322 Comments


Great review man, pos. Imagery is such an important aspect of music.

Even though I'm not too big on ambient music, I might give this one a listen. I listened to Ulver's last album because of your review and found it excellent, very cinematic.

Digging: Reinforcer - Prince of the Tribes

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


17052 Comments


Pretty good review JT.
Sounds like an enjoyable soundscape, will check this out.

Digging: Malignant Altar - Realms of Exquisite Morbidity

Amphoteric
November 11th 2013


2014 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is very very different from Ulver's stuff but if you really like atmosphere you'll dig it.

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Thanks guys.

@manosg: This isn't as accessible as Ulver and if you're not that into ambient it might be quite hard to get into but by all means have a listen and see if you like it. Evoking the Stillness is probably the easiest track to get into.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


27015 Comments


Sweet review man, I like how you switched it up and this sounds really cool.

Can't really think of any suggestions on how to improve the review as it's really well-written, but there are two spots missing an apostrophe (listener's in second paragraph and album's in the fourth) Those are just minor things though, keep up the great work!




Digging: Gas - Der Lange Marsch

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Thanks man, I appreciate it.

I'll edit those apostrophes in soon.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
November 11th 2013


27015 Comments


Sure thing dude. I'll have to check this one out ;)

JamieTwort
November 11th 2013


26988 Comments


Hope you like it. As I said to manosg, it's not the most accessible of albums (three 20 min+ tracks with very little variation throughout their length) but if you're in the right mood to embrace the album's atmosphere and lose yourself in it, it can be quite an experience.

MassiveAttack
November 11th 2013


2754 Comments


A Mathias Grassow review...interesting :D

somnolence
November 11th 2013


405 Comments


inaccessibility isn't a substitute for lack of attention span



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