Ela Orleans 2016 “You Go Through Me” is the second track on Ela Orleans‘ new album “Circles of Upper and Lower Hell” – a 73 minute album loosely based on Dante’s Inferno but infused with deep personal experience.

It’s the perfect song to introduce an immersive concept album from the Glasgow-based electronic sound art composer and performer. Dark as the subject matter is, there is something sublime and surreal in hearing the voices of The Pastels’ Stephen and Katrina joining with Ela to sing lines like “abandon all hope, you who enter here.”  

That mix of breathtaking moments of beauty with soul-crushing darkness is the heart of a sometimes confronting, but rewarding album. Having now repeatedly abandoned hope upon entry to this album, hope is the one quality most restored by completion of this epic journey.

By unwelcome coincidence of recent events in the UK, the album’s hell-on-earth theme represents a perfectly dark melancholia for the times.

In Dante’s Inferno hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth; it is the “realm…of those who have rejected spiritual values by yielding to bestial appetites or violence, or by perverting their human intellect to fraud or malice against their fellowmen” according to American poet John Ciardi. Well, that pretty much sums up the current neo-liberal political and economic agenda, as well as post-‘BREXIT’/ ‘post-factual’ division in the no longer quite so United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland, doesn’t it?

Unlike Ela’s previous (and excellent) album “Tumult in Clouds”  which often re-assembled and re-shaped samples into new music, “Circles of Upper and Lower Hell” is built upon the performance of synths drums, percussion and voices mostly, merging synth-pop, electronica, and experimental ambient sound art into an ambitious masterpiece.

There’s a lot to take in, and it’s an album that needs repeated headphone listens with concentrated effort.  The instrumentals have film soundtrack quality. Some are quiet, minimal and eery, suggesting ‘incidental music’ soundscapes, infused with a rumbling dread behind the beauty. Others are more grand adventures in sound textures and atmosphere.

The album may be ghostly, creepy, and claustrophobic at times, but ultimately the uplifting beauty of the melodies and Ela’s voice (singing and spoken/ whispered word) which accompany the listener throughout this turbulent journey inspire hope of redemption.

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