Anthesteria: 1953

For listeners familiar with Georgiy Thieme's previous output under the moniker, the name Anthesteria likely conjures associations with Russian post-industrial. But what makes Phobos 1953 (OST) so striking isn't so much the recording's concept but the understated and leisurely tone of the material, which makes the album's dark ambient content so much more satisfying than had it been presented as a brutal assault. Concerning the concept, the setting is an abandoned Soviet bunker in March 1953 where experiments on the human psyche are being performed on subjects. That the experiments involve explorations into the limits of human psyche, thought-transference, and the resurrection of long-forgotten yet vaguely familiar images naturally invites comparisons on conceptual grounds between Phobos 1953 (OST) and Chris Marker's La jetée.

Both the opening piece, “1953,” and the second, “Inside the Bunker,” exude a carefully measured quota of portent in their atmospheric synth weaves; the second in particular stands out for the confident control Anthesteria brings to the unfolding of its electric piano melodies. There are, however, darker currents operating below the music's semi-serene surface, as “Psychokinesis” makes clear when jagged guitar shards intone against a gloom-laden backdrop. A growing sense of paranoia, claustrophobia, and disorientation creeps in with the advent of the industrial dronescape “Mercurial Shower Facility” and the subsequent “Electric Shadows.” When “Black March” follows the brooding “The Cell,” one is struck not only by how obviously ‘cinematic' the Anthesteria style is but also how much it shares in approach with Angelo Badalamenti; certainly one could easily imagine the elegiac “Black March” as part of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, just like many of the other pieces on Phobos 1953 (OST) (in fact, at his MySpace page, Thieme explicitly expresses interest in producing soundtracks for movies, and the front cover even displays the words 'original soundtrack'). Amidst the rumble and whirr of radio transmissions and disembodied voices, a mournful cello solo injects “Shortwave Solitudes” with a transfusion of humanity and sunlight.

The presentation of the release is also noteworthy, as it comes in a DVD-size double-cardboard sleeve which contains large illustrated post-cards (showing the bunker) and pages from a 1962 book that's apparently about mental suggestions (its text is in Russian). In keeping with the multi-media approach Thieme brings to the Anthesteria project (not only are photographs, illustrations, and texts considered as embellishments for a given release, he even uses ‘aromatization' in certain cases), the album includes two videos. All such details succeed at making the release stand out, certainly much more so than had it been issued as a standard CD free of any conceptual dimension.

July 2010