Kreng: Grimoire (Miasmah)
Grimoire lives up to its name, a haunting work from Pepijn Caudron, an experimental composer working out of Antwerp. Kreng as a project generally lurks in the shadows, preferring an air of mystery, and I find that this enhances the experience a bit… as Miasmah described it on their writeup, perhaps the less we know the better. The title itself refers to books of magic whose influence on cultures past and present is debateable. However, folklore notwithstanding, there is something truly magical about this music. Caudron’s compositions are enchanting and beguiling, often taking unexpected turns that are likely to keep even the most prepared listener surprised on a regular basis. The closest comparison musically that I’d draw is the most recent output of Deaf Center — it’s not entirely surprising that Miasmah is run by one half of that project. Those similarities are in both arrangement and timbre, with delicate piano pieces juxtaposed against grimier string arrangements, with plenty of effects and spatial reverb to breathe. But the dark mystery of Grimoire feels deeper, more bottomless than that of Deaf Center. The experience is far more cinematic, but the images it conjures up are just out of focus, beyond view. And so this added bit of confusion, trying to put pictures to music where the music betrays easily doing so (despite yearning for it), enhances the listen even more for me. Especially disorienting is the 9-minute “Wrak,” falling toward the front-center of the album, which features a crazy crescendo of squeaking and creaking amidst dissonant strings and samples, sounding not unlike a very grumpy Nurse With Wound. “La Poule Noire” is also a strange one, percolating with hand-drumming percussion and shakers to provide a nice rhythmic baseline to an otherwise nebulous soundtrack. It’s a strange combination of sounds overall, one that keeps me on my toes as I listen each time. Like a movie that provides new layers of detail and meaning each time you view it, Grimoire is a complex and rewarding experience.