Eumourner’s latest release, TRAKL TRAUMA TRACKS, is a bleak and disturbing experience outlining the failings of humans throughout history. This record reeks of despair and reminds us all of the crushing weight of the living existence. It is a beautiful yet dismal vision but an altogether compelling one, especially for those partial to nightmarish hellscapes.
On the album’s Bandcamp page, the group from Italy outlines a brief history of the Austrian poet and chemist, George Trakl, who after beholding the horrors of World War One, took his own life through a cocaine overdose. This story speaks to the futility that humans felt at the onset of World War One, which is an often underrepresented war when discussing human history. Due to the highly ideological elements surrounding the history of the Second World War, it is often considered as more historically important, but I would dare to say that World War One was a much more brutal and utterly earth-shattering experience, particularly for the soldiers on the ground. This is not to discount the utter moral quandary that is the second Great War, but what I find fascinating about the latter is that it was the first time many people had seen conflict on such a great scale. And its stain has dogged our history ever since.
Not to dwell too much on history but part of the reason I find this release so compelling is the subject matter. As mentioned, this war is often glossed over in modern history classes and yet I find myself drawn to this past, which is so unfamiliar yet it marks the dawn of our modern era. The album features no lyrics (besides some sparsely and barely audible spoken word) and therefore all emotions gleaned from this album are a by-product of the atmosphere. The music fills the room like mustard gas and incites an oppressive and stifling mood. The album is comprised of six tracks that do not necessarily feel like individual ‘songs’ but more like pieces of a whole. I do not generally listen to single tracks from albums but without a doubt, this release is supposed to be experienced as a whole. Although minimal, the music seems to allude to an overarching narrative experience, the musical equivalent of a drowned outcry for help. As the work unfolds you almost make out what the voice is saying before it slips away into an inky blackness leaving you wondering if you heard anything at all.
The first track on the album, “Der Schlaf”, introduces us to mostly natural sounds: wind and rain howling as they strike at the earth with futility. Slowly, animalistic vocalisations are softly introduced under the dark soundscape, building in intensity as if some monstrous beast is rearing over the horizon. Strange birds chirp with anticipation and fear as the wicked thing draws closer. String-like sounds begin to join the fray giving us our first taste of any resembling traditional harmony; however, the modernist nature of the sounds invokes subtle reflections of Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ rather than anything of a diatonic nature. All the while, an impending swarm of digital insects and algorithmic abhorrent beasts threaten to breach the calmness of your mind. A dreadful marching band seems to pass by, lost in the recesses of your shattered memory. As you awake, you find yourself onto track two, “Stundenlied”, with a malignant cuckoo clock mocking you as you sit up. A music box beckons to you through a closed door. And as you look towards the sound, the door slowly creaks open as laughter fills your head. You cannot locate where the sound emanates from but you feel altogether unnerved and afraid.
This experience continues for the better part of 40 minutes. Although dynamically the album never really reaches a climax I feel this is part of the charm. A comparison can be made to being lost in a dark wilderness. You know not how you arrived here but are soon greeted by a lonesome cloaked figure. He leads you, promising a way out of this terrifying ordeal. As the journey reaches its final stages the figure disappears into nothingness, leaving you alone in this shadow kingdom. I would not say this experience is in any way cathartic, in fact, quite the opposite. You feel repressed and uncertain; however, for me, this is a powerful message. Life is not a rich and beautiful experience every moment of every day. It is often a struggle, content a foggy image that seems just out of reach.
TRAKL TRAUMA TRACKS spoke to me in more ways than one. It is a cold yet bewitching adventure and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone who is partial to ambient music and droning soundscapes, though do not expect to come out of it unscathed.