Blast from the Past: Mnemonists – Horde

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(Vinyl LP, Dys, 1981)

I first read about the mysterious post-everything Colorado ensemble Mnemonists on Piero Scaruffi’s website where he was reviewing albums by the Norwegian experimental/free improv collective Supersilent – he compared Supersilent to Mnemonists, which got me intrigued, considering the albums by the Americans were released some 20 years before the Norwegians. Something magical must have been in the air of Colorado in the early 80’s, putting its trippy tentacles into some visionaries brains, provoking them to make some of the most fucked-up, yet brilliant sound collages at the time.

Lots of fluctuations went down with the collecitve, first from being called The Mnemonist Orchestra, then to being called simply Mnemonists and finally splitting into two separate groups: a graphic/design group that retained the name mnemonists and a music group that adapted the name Biota. “Horde” is a document of the band’s earlier efforts, when there was no border between the “art” and the “music” part of the collective, and truly mind-erasing ride through what can be generally considered “difficult” music.

The album makes references to artists such as Max Ernst or Francis Bacon – both are known for their constant warping of reality in their paintings, especially Bacon who would often draw human figures deformed and mutilated beyond recognition, often caught in extreme pain with the few brutal strokes of the brush, which made the portraits blurry, yet with the whole horrifying clarity of what’s going on. This is what Mnemonists did, too: mutilating music, breaking its bones and spines and leaving it to suffer among the industrial wasteland. “Horde” is very often messy and confusing, but does a magical trick of staying compelling and well thought-out throughtout the entire psychedelic length of the LP, sometimes uncovering the blackened veil to expose the complex machinations and compositional efforts that actually take place under the murk.

The album is rather slow-paced, sometimes giving away the electronic miasma to show some of its more instrumental underbelly, which is just as ugly and unwelcoming (yet morbidly fascinating) as the tortured synthesizer workouts. Droning violins slowly pace forward through the scorched earth and post-apocalyptic soundscapes, becoming a soundtrack to all sorts of mental ilnesses and nervous breakdowns. Not a single ray of light is to be seen here, the sounds of “live” instruments, like the piano, clarinets or violins clash with mangled tape music isanity and industrial bleakness into an ever-shifting amoeba that appears to have no higher purpose than to confuse and bewilder the listener.

Don’t try to seek sense or melody on “Horde”. Because here, chaos reigns.

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