I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Encomiast before. The collective’s membership varies; they have released over a dozen albums, and have also been involved in film music and occasional live performances. “Gravity Is Very Compelling” was created out of incidental music and sounds created for a production of Sarah Ruhl’s play “Eurydice“. It’s a single piece of music, just over half-an-hour long, which the artist states “attempts to roughly parallel the play’s 3-movement plot structure, moving from our world, to the underworld, and finally to the tragic meeting of [Orpheus and Eurydice]”.
Our story begins with gently lapping waves, which are joined by a subtle chord progression of pads that open the track out into an almost angelic beginning. The pads thicken and swell, and a muted choir adds to the density, creating giant slabs of sustained, languorous beauty. The pads and voices move in and out of step, and the pattern repeats itself slowly, building and ever-shifting in an expectation of what’s to come.
We progress to a change: a shift from our world to the underworld. Discordant, distressed voices begin to appear above the shimmering sound of the pads and choir. Minor chords begin to appear mirrored with what sounds like filtered white noise. Rain, perhaps. A distant thunderclap, and rumbling. The constant noise is louder, drowning out the opening sequence. Occasional quiet clicks accompanied by static echo across the soundfield, like valves opening and closing; almost intakes of breath. Around the halfway mark, everything moves off-kilter, as though we’re physically sliding downwards. Long, dark ambient chords transfix us in a fearful place.
Some resistance is met again by the influx of the brighter voices from the first part. A whirling sound speeds up and slows down again, and the darkness has almost gone. The listener is placed in a vantage point to prepare to witness the couple’s tragic end. A bell strikes, while distant string plucks begin behind the sound of water droplets. The sounds start a slow fade, punctuated by a chime and bowls. We’re in a desolate space. There is no music, only sound. Very slowly, luscious chords are introduced. The waves are lapping again, as we fade towards the play’s conclusion.
Gravity is, indeed, very compelling, as is Encomiast’s elegant, descriptive soundtrack.