Raison d’être’s Alchymeia Is a Jung-Inspired Soundtrack Through the Shadows (Review)

Raison d’être’s dark ambience may begin in the shadows, but it’s never content to stay there.
Alchymeia - Raison d'être

After several collaborations with German noise outfit Troum and several releases from his Atomine Elektrine side-project, Peter Andersson is back with a new solo Raison d’être album. And as befitting his ambient-industrial gloom, Alchymeia is inspired by similarly weighty themes: the psychology of Carl Jung and his study of archetypes and the individuation process.

In Jungian psychology, individuation is the process by which a person understands all of the various aspects of their existence, finds a way to integrate them, and becomes fully aware of who and what they’re meant to be. This necessarily involves seeking out and facing one’s “shadow,” i.e., those deep, dark aspects of your personality that usually remain hidden and unknown.

With his usual array of monastic chants (both eerie and ethereal), “haunted factory” sounds, barren synthesizer washes, and ominous tones, Andersson’s music is well-suited for soundtracking a journey through the darker, more mysterious aspects of one’s psyche.

However, if you don’t know your Jung from your Freud and think psychoanalysis is a load of bunk, but you are looking for transporting music that you can sink into during moments of contemplation and introspection — or if you just want a score for that imaginary apocalyptic film currently unfolding in your mind — then Alchymeia will more than suffice.

As with all Raison d’être albums, Alchymeia is dark and foreboding, and given its slow, funereal pace (all four tracks cross the 17-minute mark), not suited for a casual listen. This is an album that ought to be listened to in its entirety, with no distraction, so it can absorb you. But Raison d’être’s dark ambience isn’t monochromatic. Andersson’s compositions are shot through with moments of beauty and light (e.g., the choir that slowly emerges in the final minutes of “Albedo” amidst solemn bells and fragmented electronics, the ghostly mourners on “Rubedo” that make their presence known surrounded by stark piano notes and industrial scrapings).

Moments like these give Alchymeia a subtle diversity and sense of motion, and are proof that Raison d’être’s music may begin in the shadows, but it’s never content to stay there.

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