Being human is a struggle. Questions of who we are, what we are and how we should live have perplexed philosophers throughout history. They have formed the intriguing plot-lines of a plethora of science fiction films and television series. And two years on since the release of Addicted in 2014, they firmly take centre stage at the heart of Holophinium, the probing and insightful new double CD release from Karibow.
Founder and multi-instrumentalist Oliver Rüsing is unflinching in exploring the experiences in our lives which come together and gradually give birth to the sense of who we are and the relationships we form. Disc 1: The Fragments comprises 10 tracks which wrestle with the episodes of a life, the dawning awareness that there must be something better than this, the burning desire to be true to ourselves and the need to live with integrity.
Holophinium (Track 2) unhesitatingly poses the accusation that we live secret inner lives, hiding behind appearances, merely following the herd. “What do you hide behind your eyes?”; “How can you be what you pretend?” E.G.O. (Track 3) pushes harder: “Why don’t you turn your life around?” The struggle to live an authentic life isn’t easy. “Don’t give up”. Along the way we wake up to who we are; it emerges within us and fights to stay alive.
But Rüsing is best when he turns to the things that matter most. The dark experiences we suffer and endure let us know just how real life is and highlight how alive we really are amidst all the fragility and vulnerability. The fear of loss, “every welcome means goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye” (E.G.O.), echoes the sentiment that being hurt is eloquent proof we are fully alive. We dare to love but in the process open ourselves to loss and becoming lost: “what makes us human is the pain of looking away”.
If the message of Disc 1 is uncompromising, it is not without hope. Whilst it may be the case that “this life is insecurity and change is everywhere” (Victims of Light, Track 4), the task with which we are charged is clear: “You are the show. Fragility. Love. Fragility.” (Some Will Fall, Track 5). This is where the joy of life is born, where we turn from being self-obsessed and self-absorbed to being there for others. Love is what matters most and the hope which springs from the risk of love, the dreams we dare to build and the memories we fondly cherish.
These are the tales of a life, open-ended and still being told. The music is a perfect reflection of living narrative, weaving the story of a life coming to be. The tracks are open, daring and experimental, the music searching for something not yet found, always on its way but never quite arriving. One moment it is dramatically turbulent, troubled and discordant, the next it is beautifully melodic, harmonic and even choral. Music mirrors life; music is born from our struggles with our selves and the lives we live, the sweetness of love, the bitterness of anger, despair and strife.
Disc 2: Letter From the White Room brings a change of pace. The mood is more settled, the tone more reflective and mature, yet equally the themes feel more intense, more passionate and more dramatic. The White Room is the place between the launch tower and the point of entry to a space craft, the final point of contact where astronauts have one foot on the ground and one foot already in space. It provides time to reflect and get things in order before a new perspective arrives in which the world is seen, literally, in a different light. Once experienced, nothing can or will be the same again.
The music is correspondingly more assertive, laden with character and sweeping in the scale of the soundscapes being created. There is poise, attitude and a focused intensity which builds toward an emotional cascade of deep symphonic vistas filled with rich melodic contrasts. The song writing is deliciously intricate and rewardingly engaging with instrumental layers building on and permeating through each other.
Indeed, the overall scale of this grand and hugely creative vision is remarkable. As well as using Chris Thomas (acoustic guitars) and Markus Bergen (keyboards) from Karibow’s touring line up, Rüsing solicits a superb mosaic of contributions from Michael Sadler (Saga, vocals), Sean Timms (Southern Empire, keyboards), Colin Tench (Corvus Stone, guitars) Karsten Stiers (Errorhead, vocals), Jörg Eschrig (mandolin, backing vocals) and Daniel Neustad (fretless bass).
Each musician leaves a uniquely enduring and distinctively memorable contribution to the musical narratives, their instrumental and physical voices seamlessly blending with the wonderfully inventive and innovative vision being enacted. This is complimented and enhanced by the sumptuous 8 piece glossy digipack and gorgeously illustrated 32 page booklet which exudes a perceptive and intelligent care and commitment befitting of the project as whole.
Holophinium is an immersive and thoroughly engrossing experience. The musicianship is staggering and Rüsing gently engages you intellectually and emotionally. The musical voyage on which he takes you is correspondingly fascinating and riveting in equal measure. It has been a constant presence on my player since arriving: watch out for CD1 Track 7 (River); the repeat button will never see so much action!
This review first appeared for The Progressive Aspect
Disc 1: The Fragments
Victims of Light
Some Will Fall
Disc 2: Letter from the White Room
2. Walk on Water
3. Orbital Spirits
6. Part of the Century
Markus Bergen / Keyboards
Jörg Eschrig / Mandolin, backing vocals
Daniel Neustad / Fretless bass
Oliver Rüsing / Lead & backing vocals, drums, electric & acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards
Michael Sadler / Lead & backing Vocals
Karsten Stiers / Lead vocals
Colin Tench: guitars
Chris Thomas / Acoustic guitars
Sean Timms / Piano & keyboards
Label: Progressive Promotion Records
24th March 2016
Band Website: http://www.karibow.com/
Facebook – Holophinium: https://www.facebook.com/holophinium/