Comprised of one Simon Heath, the title to this cryptic CD means “those who walk in smoke”. It is a dark set of fourteen soundscapes: electronic drones and hissing sounds, muffled spoken voices, distant synthetic choir-like vocals, erratic percussive scratching and scrapings and occasional heartbeat-like thumps. “Kapnobatai” is a journey into the underworld of the innermost regions where a deadly silence saps the souls of those imprisoned therein. Imagine the music of Vidnu Obmana interpreted by the demons who inhabit the deepest chambers of Hades. There are echoes of battles past, murders done in the name of the gods and of God: an overpowering sense of remorse. What have we done? Oh, that it could be undone! The innocent dead speak and sing to the damned, who can but catch glimpses of the heaven they shall never obtain, thus increasing their sense
of torture. O! What might have been! One soundscape blends into another: trapped in the orc-infested mines of Moria, its original builders murdered, with the Balrog – demon of an earlier time, lurking unbeknownst within its halls.These aural images are filled with sadness, regret, and intense fear. As the science fiction author wrote: I have no mouth and I must scream!
(4.5 stars out of 5)
A quandary. You’re an up and coming artist who also composes music. You release your debut “Cellblock”‘ to critical acclaim. You take some time out. Recover and plan. You then release the ‘oh so’ difficult to follow second release “Seishinbyouin” to even greater plaudits. People are calling it the scariest recording ever committed onto shiny disc. The response scares you. Doubts creep in. Suddenly you’re thrust even more into the limelight. The expectations weigh you down. The third release seems a long way off. You fret. Gathering your thoughts you start doing what you do best. You lay down track after track. After weeks of sweat and tears you’ve finished. The tracks are finished and a title given. “Kapnobatai” it will be known as. You go over and over each piece of music making final tiny adjustments and adding the polish to make it shine. You can do no more. And here is the quandary. Do you submit it to the record label that has shown so much faith in your talent… knowing that it will be forever compared to your second masterpiece…or do you admit defeat and give up the ghost completely.
Simon Heath is no quitter. Simon Heath knows his shit. Simon Heath has the self belief in his music. “Kapnobatai” acts as a companion piece to the horrors that “Seishinbyouin” projected musically. In film terms “Seishinbyouin” is to ” Alien ” what “Kapnobatai” is to ” Aliens “. A more grandiose and intense exhilarating experience with more effects and a bigger budgeted sound. “Kapnobatai” (“those who walk in smoke”) is a 14 track triumphant intelligent black ambient magnum opus…and you’ll not see those words written down too many times about any other piece of music.
With this work the aural landscape is one populated by decay and desperation. Of buildings falling apart and machinery rusting as the acid rains fall. Of multi lingual people taking shelter from the prevailing storms aware that something evil is within their mist. Echoes of a past and present on a collision course to oblivion. Through the music doors open and close in the darkness and desperate voices speak with fear and dread. The occasional jaunty beats and electronics clash against the threat of an oncoming onslaught where there will be no winners. This then is the key to Simon Heath’s work. To go against the grain when least expected. To lead into visions of hope then cruelly shatter the illusions with dramatic effect. What appears normal suddenly turns into something completely different within the same track. A massive jolt to the body. A cattle prod thrust into the chest by a maniac laughing deliriously.
” Kapnobatai” is all of this. A huge Pandora’s box of delights. Dare you open it? Dare you peer inside? Dare you face the demons laying in wait? Well…dare you? The difficult third recording is finished. Laid to rest. To be savoured and relished. To be played back to back with “Seishinbyouin”. For they are both on equal footing. They are statements of an artist in total control. A master of all he surveys. A virtuoso of black ambient music. Miss this at your peril.
It is not enough to describe this CD as dark ambient, for each track carries its own sense of importance and cinema. This CD is more of a soundtrack for a film that follows a labyrinthine script of whispered voices and cavernous echo.
The Kapnobatai were ancient shamans, whose hallucinatory rite required them to wade through billows of botanical smoke to commune with the spirit world, in order to gain healing powers and to experience visions of the future.
Simon Heath, who composed, mixed, and mastered this recording, also contributed some fantastic artwork that appears on the cover of the CD insert, as well as inside. The artwork illustrates the existence of monstrous unknown entities, like those inhabiting a Lovecraftian spirit world just beyond the crack in a wall, visible only through the use of arcane knowledge garnered by the reading of elaborate geometrical texts.
Heath creates a world where time collapses, where the ancient world of conjured spirits, the physical limitations of being all too human, and the infinite outreach of potential futuretech, all coexist.
The physicality of the CD is expressed in different ways, via whispered secrets, despair-ridden whimpers, and outright cries of pain.
The ambient sound creates the illusion of captivity and freedom, perpetuating a renegade spirit throughout the CD, a spirit that is always planning to escape, wrestling with an inability to escape, or succumbing to the notion that escape is impossible. This escape might be from some tormentor, but it also might be from the chains of habitual ritual, or from some other conditioning method.
The physicality of the CD is also strengthened by percussive excursions, which negate the bang-the-drum-hard mentality. Rather, there is the subtle, but highly effective, pulse, pound, and synapse of biology, geology, and technology.
Heath does a masterful job here, making this a highly recommended CD.