As a geologist, I’m always fascinated to hear artistic perceptions of our restless, constantly evolving planet. Markus’s first album on ASIP, Theia, was a magnificent, swirling mass of immense power, representing the collision of two bodies in the solar system, resulting in the separation of the Earth and Moon. Empire, for me, continues the story of Earth.
Offworld picks up from where the final hints of Cavus left off, with ominous, cavernous pads rooted in deep time, the planet healing, recrystalising, and the first electromagnetic sweeps of Earth’s core juddering to life. The pads give way to Markus’s trademark looping hypnosis, an early indication of the many cycles active on Earth. Those cycles become evident in Refraction, with the advent of liquid water cascading behind Julia Kent’s haunting cello. Meanwhile, deep processes swell and wane, tectonics underway, the deep earthquakes pulsing through with soothing regularity. We are submerged into young oceans in Fura, hidden away with the earliest life that begins to emerge halfway through, first into the shallows, then into the glittering sunlight. Rain joins the sunlight, creating a utopia for life, a world of plenty, balanced ecosystems, a halcyon daze of early life provided by bvdub’s rousing piano on Kuria.
Geological cycles occur over varying timescales, some hundreds of years long, some many millions. Markus echoes that with a plunging back into dark times in Nun. Perhaps a sudden mass extinction has wiped out vast swathes of life on earth. But it blossoms back into life in Halo, a wonderous bounty, a cornucopia alluded by the heavenly harp from Tom Moth. The journey continues on into New World Order, perhaps the most contemplative piece on the album. Does it represent dark times ahead for planet Earth? Its slow, bass-laden tones could certainly be interpreted that way. But it doesn’t just speak of gloom, as there’s trepidatious high notes sung by the choirs at Markus’s fingertips. Do we take this as a sign of something good to come, that perhaps there is still chance for mankind to wrest Earth from the edge of the precipice at which we’ve placed it?
Empire is another fantastic album from Markus in a line of fantastic albums. But it’s more than that, it showcases Markus’s complete mastery over his use of music in creating an enthralling narrative. It is surely one of his finest pieces, and that is no mean feat, given how highly I rate his other albums. The scientist in me is thoroughly in wonderment with the tale told, its cyclicity, and its attention to detail that almost reads like a textbook of Earth history. The rest of me is entranced by the wonderful array of sounds, textures emotions portrayed in this beautiful piece of work.
Markus Guentner – Empire is available to preorder here.