Etymology only rarely serves our truest purpose as a reviewer, which is basically to respect what we’re hearing in order to understand and feel, to the best of our bio-abilities, what it really is. In this case, though, I think that going back to the origin of the band name is, at least if both chance and fortune let us pass through, gonna be helpful in our musicologist quest. We hear of Athanor in ancient Arabic: at-tannûr, the philosophical oven which within alchemical processes was used to fire the transmuting matter elements into self-metamorphosis. Its heat could consume even the substantial forms of the elements, essence-shifting these primary properties of microphysical events. On the other hand, Aristotle, let’s remember it, called Aether the fifth element, the quinte essence, or what we might simply call cosmic ether. This was where the gods hanged out so to speak, right into a supra-lunar dimension of perfection and incorruptibility. When it comes to our post-modern Aethenor incarnation, Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), Vincent de Roguin (Shora) and Daniel O’Sullivan (Guapo) are at the core of the band, while other experimentalists, such as Kristoffer Rygg (Ulver), drummer and percussionist Alexander Babel and Nicolas Field all joined in. That’s right! And together they transpire a dark abstract music close to being some sort of cosmic alchemy of sounds.
Listening to the first song, making myself confortable, I remembered Nurse With Wound at their most droney. As a pulsing bass organ line chops it up in the background, somnolent and psychedelic psycho synthesizers or ambient guitars or whatever, are what let your mind drift out of itself. Much of the composition stays within the realms of dark ambient and gloomy rumbling atmosphere, and in that sense I would say this is another example of genuine cinematic darkness. Mushy clouds breathing in and out canyons of thick fog among flickering glitters would be a fairly good visual comparison, even though everything is so detailed in the background, as well as on the foreground, that it’s all about each of the sounds too. Therefore it’s more like a drone band jamming than, say, a one line looping drone. Really heavy but sweet as hell. Number 2 song is another affair indeed! Much more dynamic and intense in its various tones, it contains surprising turns at every corner, using abstract rythms conducted with a convincing tightness to raise the general tension a few degrees up. Guapoesque and Shoraesque bells & zylo polyphonic melodies then innocently lead us to an almost free blast beat intensity. Alright, hand in hand with growing noise pulses underneath, the drums become more apparent and more imposing, free-jazzing their way up to a frenzied sate of percussions, while platforms of tectonic sheer powers rush over. This is where Betimes Black Cloudmasses comes to the hardest of itself, you’ve been advised.
The third song seems like a mixture of the first two, even if it has a radiance of its own. It won’t go back to the percussive insanity of track number two, neither will it flirt with much of the first one. I think I can hear Mr. Rygg “spreading out” a few throatings right at the begnining and doing a few appearances now and then, sounding more like a raspy underground creature rather than the poetic figure he’s come to be known for. Soon enough a more spacious atmosphere, so to speak, takes the lead, and once again mysterious abstract melodies are washed over by thick layers of engulfing ambient, only to moreover secretly revel in a most sublime minimalism. Well, this of course is a pretty intense ride throughout, and I suggest to stay open-minded and not to judge right after your first listening session. I’d say it’s got a thing or two to share with a boiling volcano just about to ejaculate, and as much as you may get fascinated by its natural beauty, the closer you look inside and the more chances you have to be burned down within a second. These particle transmutations will therefore appeal to both physicians and musical enthusiasts out there.
01 – I
02 – II
03 – III