Boomkat Product Review:
Holy moly! Ákos Rózmann’s monumental 7.5 hr ‘Mass’ is one of the most peculiar and rigorous electro-acoustic reflections on the Catholic ceremony imaginable, now premiered with Stephen O’Malley’s amazing Ideologic Organ. Simply unmissable for connoisseurs of epic, ambitious, long-form experimental composition that beggars belief.
A staggering proposition from any perspective, ‘Mass’ commits one of Rózmann’s most significant cycles to its first release. Set to absolutely blow head tops 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 composition inspired by the artist’s religious experience. The results are practically incomparable in terms of its 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, yet we’d still be short of approximating 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.
“It’s presumable that everything in the general sense is about the notion of positive or negative because everything in the world is structured like that. But it’s not that simple in the Triptych [the first three pieces of the Gloria-cycle]. Different forces stand against each other, but their interrelation is more complex than that of good and evil.”
Like a holy mountain that you don't climb thru sheer awe, ‘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 incantation 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.