Deep in the recesses of old-growth forests lives an ancient energy that permeates the Earth’s crust, radiating out in geometric patterns to inhabit the soil beneath us. At least that’s the energy flowing throughout james ginzburg’s newest concoction, crystallise, a frozen eye. ginzburg is a bit of an alchemist. He doesn’t sit in the same zone for too long and is always uncovering new channels to explore whether it’s ‘60s folk, brain splattering electronics, collaborating on bangers with Joker, and most things in between. But crystallise, a frozen eye is a new, unexpected chapter.
Composed using an array of acoustic instruments like psaltery, Appalachian dulcimer, and shruti box, at times I think this is what emptyset would sound like in a post-apocalyptic world where there’s no electricity and everything lives under a layer of dust. Ginzburg’s compositions are generally short (most are under four minutes) but are sonically immense. Bone-breaking synthesizer bass tones underpin the Daf drum rattle of “border, dispersing” as the droning, bowed intensity overwhelms. In the space of two minutes, the sun goes supernova and melts everything into liquid metal. Stuck in the twinkling aftermath, “a gate left open disappeared” is almost saccharine with the intense sparkling timbre of the psaltery looping to infinity. It’s the sonic equivalent to a hall of mirrors.
Throughout crystallise, a frozen eye, ritualistic impulses flourish. Ancestral rhythms pound through the bowed-string murk of “outside, infinite” as it pushes toward an unseen summit. Rattling hums grind through shruti drones before eventually being overtaken by their hypnotic sonic swathes on “an obsidian expanse,” while the aforementioned sugary psaltery tones also show up in the cacophony of “the eyes, behind.” Textures grind into new shapes, this music in constant motion – even minimalist bell haunts of “in time – crossing” – where it feels as though ginzburg is summoning primeval power.
crystallise, a frozen eye is moving and all-consuming. Beneath the weight of its intensity is enough pressure to squeeze out diamonds. It takes in the litany of mundane horrors we’ve all felt in the past year and, instead of searching for answers or forward paths, absorbs those traumas to find new, communal understanding and experience. There’s no turning away from this slab of desolation, but if we can all hear the beat of the same immortal rhythms through the thick vibrations, the light will eventually find a way through.