Panabrite – Cortex Meridian (2013)

I wanted to talk about this album earlier, but I feel now is the perfect time and I’m glad I held it off. It’s half-past-midnight and I’ve just had a great time watching the Perseid meteor shower; I’m a bit chilly and my eyes oversensitive but I cant think of a better album to listen to or review right now than Cortex Meridian.

Cover

I wanted to talk about the title; there’s a neurological/psychological theory that the brain is separated into distinct hemispheres (left and right, this is anatomically obvious) but that each hemisphere controls specific facets; those who are said to be “right-brained” are creative and artistic due to audiovisual processing centres there, while those who are “left-brained” are more logical and analytic. I had a realisation tonight that to look at the stars represents a meeting in the middle of the two halves of our brain’s distinct personas; there’s an appreciation of the natural beauty in the patchwork quilt of the night sky, the twinkling of the stars in the infinite darkness, but also a curiosity in that each point is a gigantic blazing inferno of gas hundreds if not thousands or millions of light years away. This midway, this meridian, is what Panabrite seemingly attempt to capture here.

“Activator” appropriately opens the album and the synth stream begins, slowly establishing the eclectic pattern of lucid electronic found throughout. Smooth drone currents languish in the backfield to lubricate the track whilst delicate synth patterns flash and stutter in the foreground, something we’re going to get quite familiar with. “Night Sweat” arrives quickly and with little fanfare, the slow fabric of the night sky unravelling before our eyes as they adjust to the darkness, with more and more synth beats tumbling over one another as the track progresses. They’re syncopated and confused for sure, but there’s always a fundamental sense of direction and a predominant beat to keep us on track and steer us through.

“Moonpool” is a comparatively easygoing experience, replacing the high tempo rhythms with more languid, 80’s reminiscent keyboard drone and we’re suddenly transported back to an easier and less complex period in Electronic/Ambient history where careful and cheesy melodies are delicately spun out; think early Steve Roach but with a bit more crass. This blue period continues strongly in followup track “Metal Sunrise”, plodding along like a funeral march with its slow, deliberate beats, mournful drones and skittering synth riffs, carving this ethereal, almost virtual landscape as the Sun’s first rays flash across the steel and glass pillars of our skyscrapers, that intersection of natural beauty and human engineering.

Things do stall a little for me as the album continues to unwind low-key and unassuming ambient in the ineventful “Basilisk”, but “Whirling Bird” is where things begin to really pick up again in the album’s latter half, creating a very Carbon Based Lifeforms vibe at times as it matches the eerie clicks and croaks of birdsong with shimmering waves of synths and slowly looping synth drone; there’s a really dark feeling inherent throughout this release that really hits home hard on this track, it’s like the electronica is just hanging in the darkness, the weight emanating from what we cant hear. “Rebreather”‘s mechanical clicks and whines and mournful drone overlays reaffirm those dark portents, its beeps echoing in the distance slowly winding down in a rather morbid fashion.

My favourite track is coming up though, the penultimate piece and also the title track. It’s perhaps one of the most energetic and compositionally/texturally rich pieces on the album and it’s brought together effortlessly, and is an especially welcome respite from the rather slow successions in the mid-album. Delicate xylophonic tinkles form the underlying atmosphere but are quickly swamped by a myriad of perky synth riffs and whining keyboard spurs. It itself is like one vast crescendo, a deceptive sequence of effortlessly seguing peaks and troughs just merging into one another, the battle between the opposing forces of the energetic electronica and the more sombre, slow-paced drone. Slowly but surely the tussle neutralises and by the end the two are at peace. Finally, we come to the closing track and pre-released single “Abyssal II”, a track that I don’t particularly care for. We could have ended on the uplifting burst of energy of the title track but we’re serenaded out with this admittedly luxurious but ultimately stagnant piece, slumping the mood once more to lead the album out on bland synthesised percussion, intermittent vocoders and sleepy drone.

So in the same way that the stars in the night sky forge a balance between scientific fascination & discovery, and aesthetic beauty and mystery, so Cortex Meridian demonstrates the continual internal struggle between brain hemispheres and the clash of logical and analytical thought and creativity, its weighty darkness the light-less cavity of our skull, its clipped and shining electronics the bursts of information transfer between neurons. It’s an extremely intelligently crafted release that I’m certainly not doing justice, and another jewel in the crown for Constellation Tatsu. You can listen to the album in full below.

 

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