Raison D’etre: Article 2004

Originally published in Fiend Magazine

Article: The earth has a soul – raison d’etre

With Peter Andersson being a native resident of Sweden, could a direct parallel be drawn between the cold climate of the far northern hemisphere and the starkly bleak, yet hauntingly beautiful music he creates as raison d’être?  Likewise, could weather that forces a significant amount of time to be spent indoors be the key to why Andersson has been so prolific over the preceding 13 years?  Regardless of such speculations, with 6 official albums, 4 tapes, 4 archival re-release CD’s & numerous compilation appearances under his belt, raison d’être has risen to become one of the most well known and respected dark ambient artists operating today.

In light of latest album ‘Requiem for Abandoned Souls’, Andersson reflected upon the Carl Jung quote that inspired the projects name.  Discovered in 1991 in a library book about Jung (of which the name now escapes Andersson), Jung stated: “Individuation is the raison d’être of the Self. The self is the core of our psyche, individuation is a lifelong process of an immanent norm. By individuation we become diversified, reach self‑realization and at the end completeness”. Andersson’s application of this concept to the practical execution of his craft is clear.  “I believe in progression and that every new album puts the musical ambition level a bit further away” he says. “This process of individuation is a lifelong always‑ongoing process, and if I one day reach completeness it should be in the end of my years, and this would be valid for my music too, because I intend to make music all my life”.  He continues: “On the other hand for every new album I have always been reaching my musical ambition level, else I wouldn’t be satisfied with my work… I have put all my effort in creating my albums, which means that I have realised my musical ambition, but only for that particular album. When I start composing for a new album I have a new level to reach, new ambitions. My new ambition today is not the same as ten years ago”.

The latest raison d’etre is in many respects the traditional “requiem” implied by the title. “’Requiem for Abandoned Souls’ should be seen as some sort of mass for abandoned souls, souls without hope” Andersson insists. “Not only human souls, but also anything that human put a soul on. An old house could have a soul, in the sense that something could be felt in the atmosphere, it’s something alive and organic still dead and empty. I think this feeling of a soul is stronger in old, abandoned and desolated objects than in other objects. It’s something about the history of an object”.  While the structure of the album might mirror the history & tradition of music used for a mourning mass, like much of Andersson’s work it is not as simple as it appears to be on the surface. “’Requiem for Abandoned Souls’ contains five parts, [but] they should be seen as a part of a whole. It’s a continuous journey from start to end. It’s should not be seen as a traditional religious mass, it should more be seen as ritual of catharsis of the soul where the abandonment disintegrates and instead becoming a part of the whole”.

Referring to the gradual evolution of raison d’être’s music towards more freeform compositions, Andersson mused: “It’s a very subjective experience, but I do agree in much of such a perception. I think too that I have gone from melody‑based compositions to sound‑structure‑based compositions”. He continues: “I won’t say the newer songs are less composed,  [but] the structures of the sounds themselves are composed as well, even though being minimalistic. They are more intended to freeform because I want the sounds and music to be more alive, organic. There is definitely a relation between emotions and music but on a higher level than in melodic or minimalistic issues”. Continuing with the discussion of the sound construction of the new album, Andersson notes that: “most of the sounds come from two large metal plates, one plain and one bowed, using different microphone and playing techniques. I also used the rumbling sounds of a ferry (recorded during travel between Sweden and Germany) and a drying rack, a gong and some other sources”. While the sacral and arcane atmospheres on raison d’être albums have been evoked through the use of sampled Gregorian chants, he added: “I hope that I will be able to record a real choir for a future album, if I have enough money that is”.

Contemplating what the next album may encompass, Andersson is already well on the way.  “I have some thoughts about the direction for the next sound of raison d’être, but I will have some more thoughts about it when it’s time to make the next album. Right now I don’t know in what direction I want to take raison d’être, but I want to make a slight change next, not a too extreme change but a noticeable one”. For those not yet familiar with Andersson and the work of raison d’etre, investigation is a must.  Rest assured you will not be disappointed. Andersson’s wishes are clear: “Let us hope the future contains a lot of surprises”. Yes. Let’s indeed.

 

Following below is the interview transcript used for the article:

Firstly I believe that you chose your project moniker after being influenced by the writings of Carl Jung, and in particular by the following quote: “Individuation is the raison d’être of the Self. The self is the core of our psyche, individuation is a lifelong process of an immanent norm. By individuation we become diversified, reach self‑realization and at the end completeness”. Given that raison d’etre translates to “reason to being”, do you feel that you are any closer to realising your musical ambitions, given you have been composing music under this moniker for over 13 years?

I believe in progression and that every new album put the musical ambition level a bit further away. It’s always on the move, so I won’t be able to realise or reach this ambition on its mobility, and I am not supposed to do that, at least not now, as I think it helps me in the process of inspiration. This process of individuation is a lifelong always‑ongoing process, and if I one day reach completeness it should be in the end of my years, and this would be valid for my music too, because I intend to make music all my life. On the other hand for every new album I have always been reaching my musical ambition level, else I wouldn’t be satisfied with my work. But it’s time‑dependent, I mean, my album is a product of their time. I have put all my effort in creating my albums, which means that I have realised my musical ambition, but only for that particular album. When I start composing for a new album I have a new level to reach, new ambitions. My new ambition today is not the same as ten years ago.

If you listen to the evolution of raison d’etre’s sound over your six albums it is clear that your music have become less composed and more freeform. However, I find it interesting that the emotional content of your albums has actually increased as the musical structures have become increasingly minimalist. What are your thoughts on such a perception?

It’s a very subjective experience, but I do agree in much of such a perception. I think too that I have gone from melody‑based compositions to sound‑structure‑based compositions. I won’t say the newer songs are less composed, the structures of the sounds themselves are composed as well, even though being minimalistic. They are more intended to freeform because I want the sounds and music to be more alive, organic. There is definitely a relation between emotions and music but on a higher level than in melodic or minimalistic issues.

There appears to be a clear theme to the new album given that the 5 listed tracks forms a small piece of poetic prose. Can you reveal some further information and/ or inspiration regarding the album’s theme?

‘Requiem for Abandoned Souls’ should be seen as some sort of mass for abandoned souls, souls without hope. Not only human souls, but also anything that human put a soul on. An old house could have a soul, in the sense that something could be felt in the atmosphere, it’s something alive and organic still dead and empty. I think this feeling of a soul is stronger in old, abandoned and desolated objects than in other objects. It’s something about the history of an object. ‘Requiem for Abandoned Souls’ contains five parts, they should be seen as a part of a whole. It’s a continuous journey from start to end. It’s should not be seen as a traditional religious mass, it should more be seen as ritual of catharsis of the soul where the abandonment disintegrates and instead becoming a part of the whole.

In the composition of the new album, apart from the use of synthesizers and computer programs what samples and/ or source material did you utilise?

A. Actually most of the sounds come from two large metal plates, one plain and one bowed, using different microphone and playing techniques. I also used the rumbling sounds of a ferry (recorded during a travel between Sweden and Germany) and a drying rack, a gong and some other sources (can’t remember them all).

One aspect of your music that assists in creating your sacral and arcane atmospheres is the use of Gregorian styled chants. On early albums it was clear that these had been sampled, however due to their heavy treatment and manipulation on later albums I was wondering to if these were still sampled?

A. Yes they are still sampled but very manipulated in the computer. I hope that I will be able to record a real choir for a future album, if I have enough money that is.

Given that to my ear the new album is an obvious continuation of the sound and direction of ‘the empty hollow unfolds’, where do you perceive that you will take raison d’etre’s sound on the next album?

A. I have some thoughts about the direction for the next sound of raison d’être, but I will have some more thoughts about it when it’s time to make the next album. Right now I don’t know in what direction I want to take raison d’être, but I want to make a slight change next, not a too extreme change but a noticeable one.

Likewise with there being a gap of three years from ‘the empty hollow unfolds’ to ‘requiem for abandoned souls’, is there likely to be a lengthy wait for the new opus?

A. Probably, but I will try hard to make it 2 and not 3 years. I have quite much to do now with my university studies, and there are a lot of things I want to do, like working on some of my side projects first. I already have an idea for the next raison d’être album, but yet it’s only an embryo, so I can’t reveal any of it.

Although raison d’etre is you main and most well known project, you still have a number of side projects in operation. Can you give a brief rundown of current activities of these projects?

Well, where to start. The next projects I intend to work on are first Grismannen and then Atomine Elektrine. I want to work with Grismannen because it’s a kind of project I can experiment with very much, and I have some new equipment that I haven’t yet explored, so I don’t know their limits. With Grismannen I can explore limits, or at least find out how things work in learning by doing type of style. When doing my more serious projects I really want to now how I can do things and not being frustrated over how it is supposed to work or if one way is better than the other. Grismannen explores a number of suitable working methods, but these methods may be developed and changed when a bit when working on other projects. However the Grismanenen methods give a base to further develop and adapt new methods from. In February or March this year there will be a double CD‑R release with Grismannen titled ‘Absolute Bajs’ (Absolute Shit) on the russian label ZHELEZOBETON that include all tracks for ten years of activity from 1991‑2001. In February there will be a re‑issue of two Atomine Elektrine albums. They will be presented as a double CD titled ‘Binomial Fusion’, with disc 1 being the ‘Elemental Severance’ album (orig. released on Cold meat 1995) including some previously unreleased tracks. Disc 2 will contain the ‘Atom Xtension’ material released on CD‑R 1999. Everything has been re‑mastered and some tracks on disc 2 have been re‑recorded. I will start on a new Atomine Elektrine album this spring, I don’t know the direction yet, but I have some thoughts of making a quite experimental electronic album. There is some old, yet unreleased material with Stratvm Terror that should be released in the near future. We only have to make a few new songs. All other projects in nada activity. There will be a re‑release of the Cataclyst CD‑r I released on my own label in 1999. It will be released on CD by Tantric Harmonies probably next year.

Final thoughts and/ or quotes?

Let us hope the future contains a lot of surprises.

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