Akira Rabelais returns with a bold new double album set featuring collaborations with Harold Budd, Ben Frost, Biosphere, Kassel Jaeger and Stephan Mathieu, among others...
Although it comes from a storied discography of striking ambient work, CXVI maybe Akira Rabelais’ masterpiece. The double LP sees the composer reconvene with past collaborators Harold Budd and Stephan Mathieu, yet Rabelais is imbued with a new sense of empathy and patience. Equal parts melancholic and hopeful, fearful and warm, CXVI is work worth revisiting, becoming familiar with, because you’ll be certain to have missed some of its intricacies the first time around.
Set to be received as Rabelais' magnum opus, ‘CXVI’ finds the Hollywood-based composer challenging his usual working methods, pushing himself to refresh binds with longterm collaborators such as Harold Budd and Stephan Mathieu and forge new relationships with like-minded craftsmen such as Geir Jenssen (Biosphere), while also finding a new vocal muse in Karen Vogt of Heligoland, and also coaxing the recorded debuts of his friend Mélanie Skriabine, and filmmaker/photographer Bogdan D. Smith. The result of their time-lapsed endeavours is a record of divine subtlety and poignant patience, rendered with a mirage-like appeal.
Opener ‘Which Alters When It Alteration Finds’, beautifully segues from a prickly bouquet of keys and lovebite-distortion penned with Ben Frost to a reverberant, spine-freezing piano coda from Harold Budd, before ‘Which Alters When It Alteration Finds’ smokily gives way to the sylvan shadowplay of the album’s masterful centrepiece, ‘Star to Every Wandring Worth’s Unknown’, where Mélanie Skriabine reads from Max Ernst’s ‘la femme 100 têtes’ against an exquisite veil of strings and keys realised by Akira with the GRM’s Kassel Jaeger a.k.a. François Bonnet.
The 3rd part of the album only becomes more sparse and isolationist, as Karen Vogt’s plainsong gives way to the tremulous, icy timbres of Akira’s processed guitar strokes, originally written for Cedrick Corliolis’ ’Tokyo Platform’ soundtrack, before the final side of ‘If Error and Upon Me Proved’ finds Akira pushing Geir Jenssen’s (Biosphere) synths into the red, emphasising a romantic soreness that turns into crushing noise, before Bogdan Smith’s whispered vocal melts into an ancient, arcane air inscribed to 78rpm vinyl by Stephan Mathieu and then sweetened, re-incoporated by Akira as the album’s stunning closing passage.
Riddled with bedevilling detail and utterly timeless in its scope, ’CXVI’ is a disorientating opus you’ll want to undergo over and again, for our money one of the great quiet albums of recent years.