Holy moly! Ákos Rózmann’s monumental 7.5 hr ‘Mass/Mässa’ is one of the most peculiar and rigorous electro-acoustic reflections on the Catholic ceremony imaginable, now premiered via Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ imprint. It’s simply incredible, unmissable music for anyone in search of epic, ambitious, long-form experimental composition that basically sounds like nothing else.
A staggering proposition from any perspective, ‘Mass’ commits one of Rózmann’s most significant cycles to its first release. Set to blow heads clean off, It arrives on the Ideologic Organ label, co-founded by Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg (R.I.P.), in the wake of their equally stunning reissues for ’12 Stationer VI’ (2012) and ‘Images of the Dream and Death’ (2013), and serves to deepen admiration of Rózmann’s work with its truly hard-to-fathom cycle of phantasmic, hallucinatory compositions inspired by the artist’s religious experience. The result is practically incomparable in terms of scope and execution, but, if pushed, we’d have to place it somewhere between Iancu Dumitrescu’s spectralism, Jean-Claude Eloy's fantasias, and the cosmic scale of Roland Kayn - though we’d still be some way off fully incapsulating Rózmann’s vision.
As a student of the Bartók Conservatory and the Liszt Academy, who spent a long time as organist of the Catholic Cathedral in Stockholm, Rózmann draws on this rich background to deploy organ, Hungarian zither, and the voices of a Corsican village choir and Schola Gregorian Pragensis, in the remarkably unusual, byzantine arrangements of ‘Mass’. Structured around personal observations on the first two parts of the Catholic Mass, Kyrie and Gloria, the piece unfolds a formal narrative of tensions between Positive and Negative forces, with the composer’s spirit, ranging from black humour to riddling psychedelia, lending a cosmically unresolved nuance to that conflict of energies.
Like a holy mountain that you don't climb thru sheer awe and terror, ‘Mass/Mässa’ is an epic piece of work whose peaks are best viewed from short remove. Fulminating on the mind’s eye with tempestuous and even ludicrous chaos of the ‘Kyrie eleison - Orgelstycke IV’, it proceeds to be dominated by the ‘Gloria’ parts, unfolding in sensational, shearing dynamics around fragmented incantations and petrified sound images frozen, suspended in a time out of joint. The competing energies often threaten to suck you under the waves, but always resurface in even more intriguing spaces. It’s the sort of recording that may take you to the edge of sanity and back, if consumed in full, but is perhaps better taken in stages,to break down its complex musical language and get some sort of grasp on its swarming, ineffable nature.
This, my friends, is absolutely boss-level gear. Not to be missed if you’re unafraid of the abyss.