Hypnosis by Desiderii Marginis (Review)

Hypnosis is difficult material that takes the listener on a mental journey through surreal and haunting places.
Hypnosis, Desiderii Marginis

The now defunct Cold Meat Industry label once claimed that they were “for the music lover who can sit and enjoy the evolving sound of someone else’s nightmare.” One could just as easily apply that sentiment to Desiderii Marginis’ Hypnosis. (Incidentally, Desiderii Marginis released several albums on Cold Meat Industry.) And not just as hyperbole, either: the album’s genesis lay in attempts “to convey the intricate details and strong emotions of dreams and nightmares that were submitted by friends and fans, as well as those of Johan [Levin, the man behind Desiderii Marginis] himself.”

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is most definitely not pleasant, drift-off-to-sleep music.

Like most dark ambient releases, Hypnosis is difficult material that takes the listener on a mental journey through surreal and haunting places. “Black Feathers” immediately drops the listener in the middle of a barren and blasted land. The only life comes from the distorted cries of ravens filling the sky; meanwhile, clouds of synthesizer drift over the horizon like rays from a dying sun. Elsewhere, on “Rain on Your Dreams,” a never-ending downpour hides even more spectral phenomena. The rain subsides at one point, suggesting the discovery of shelter, but the song’s tone never makes it clear if one is safer out of the storm or in the midst of it.

“The Fog Closing In” is the album’s high point, a nearly ten-minute masterpiece of tension and anxiety. Amidst clattering noises and murky synths, Levin sends blasts of noise out of the darkness. The resulting mental picture is that of being lost and adrift in a fog-enshrouded sea as something ancient and massive — the Flying Dutchman, perhaps, or a Lovecraftian beastie — passes by in the gloom. You can hear its every movement in the darkness but its appearance is obscured, and as the song progresses, you’re the more thankful for its hiddenness — even as you hope and pray it passes by without ever becoming aware of your paltry existence.

However, the album isn’t solely an an exercise in psycho-analytical sonic dread. An undercurrent of melancholy flows through even bleak songs like “Black Feathers” and “Lazarus Palace,” tempering them with a sense of loss and nostalgia. “Paralysis” adds some welcome musical variety in the form of sparse Morricone-esque guitar notes (think A Small, Good Thing’s “ambient western” music). And while “Drive” is no less dark and overwhelming than any other song on the album, there’s also a sense of awe at work within it, as if you’ve caught a glimpse of something mortals are meant to see only barely… in this mortal coil, at least.

As you might have gathered by now, the songs on Hypnosis aren’t songs per se, but rather, more like ominous, structure-less soundtracks for the mind. Which, given the album’s origins, makes perfect sense. If we can scarcely understand the inner workings of our own mind, how much less so the inner workings of anyone else’s? No doubt, any attempt to chronicle and soundtrack that which is found in the minds of others will be a harrowing and disconcerting experience. For the patient and staunch listener, though, it can be a fascinating and sometimes — sometimes — even an awe-inspiring one.