Plague Haus

Anji Cheung : Daughter of Fortitude

Jeff 01.26.2017 Reviews

2016 : Aurora Borealis
Format : Cassette/Digital

I’ve been a fan and ardent follower of Anji’s work since stumbling across it a couple of years back. I’ve featured her on the podcast, asked her to contribute to our yearly “best of” (which she’s so graciously complied), but I’ve never actually reviewed one of her releases. This happens to me on occasion with artists I have an almost overwhelming amount of respect for. I’m so worried I’ll do a subpar job that I’ll somehow tarnish their image, sort of the music reviewer version of performance anxiety impotence. That being said, 5 minutes into this tape, I knew I had to tell everyone.

I don’t believe in coincidence, and there’s a weird coalesce of events that makes this tape so important to me. To begin with, the title “The Daughter of Fortitude”. For those who may not know, this was a message received by Edward Kelly and John Dee while scrying. These transmissions were from a goddess Kelly describes as,

All her attire is like beaten gold; she hath on her forehead a cross crystal, her neck and breast are bare unto under her dugs: she hath a girdle of beaten gold slackly buckled unto her with a pendant of gold down to the ground….

Babalon, and I’d closed the back cover on Peter Grey’s excellent book “The Red Goddess” just days before. The synchronicity continues from there, but most are probably more concerned with the actual sounds than my occultist meanderings, so away we go.

Side A begins with ‘Sky the Blackness of the Pupil of My Eye’. A trance-inducing, pulsing bass line sets things in motion, beckoning all participants to the genesis of The Ritual. A gentle, feminine voice drifts in and out, wordless, an aural frankincense filling the room. Crisp waves of static twist and roll, nothing too harsh, like a sea of burning tinder, smoldering in the distance. Subtle percussion, the gently tap of a cymbal keeps the procession moving. Mesmerizing and sublime, it finishes leaving all devotees wanting more.

I read in a recent interview with Anji that ‘Outside of Light’ was based on dream she’d had “major Asclepeion overtones”. Immediately after finishing “The Red Goddess”, I’d dove into Alan Moore’s “Promethea” comic, although it had been 15 years or more since I’d held one in my hand. Synchronicity x2. To me this track is what I’d envision an interdimensional transmission to sound like, a single hypnotic resonance, the pop & hiss of pressure being released from some enormous, alien machine. Under it all is a distorted voice, broadcasted through time and space. John Carpenter’s “Prince of Darkness” immediately came to my mind. Closing the side is “He Whom the Winds Fear”. A gentle hum of white noise, a massive electronic throb slow slowly oscillates like the opening of some massive, chthonic gate. Over it all is a recording of Israel Regardie reciting ‘The Bornless Ritual’, a recording I’d listened to just days before on a whim. Synchronicity locked.

And I will deliver to them all counsel that cannot fail, giving answer in my rich temple.
– The Homeric Hymns to Apollo

Side B commences with “The Language of the Birds”. I know very little about the subtleties of creating electronic music, all I can usually do is compare sounds to other things or describe a feeling it instills in me. That caveat aside, imagine standing within some majestic cavern of Hel, while the stalactites and stalagmites randomly shift and reposition around you. Sightless avians twist and reel about you, chthonic starlings in a abyssic cathedral. “440” emerges as a phosphorescent shimmering through the dark. This immediately brought to mind the works of the great 70’s Berlin School musicians like Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze. A pulsating flight through space, I could listen to this on repeat for hours.

The album closes with “The Nothing of Night”. This is another track that reminds me of Space….of floating through its fathomless vastness, a freezing womb of infinite possibilities. Enveloped by gentle strains of electronic ambiance, the listener cocooned within it’s grasp of eternal night.

Fanboy ramblings and bad clichés aside, I’d venture to say this among my top electronic releases of the past 10 years. I’d advise all aficionados of electronic music to seek this out. Originally released in a criminally low edition of 30 copies, as of this writing it’s in it’s second pressing. There’s also a digital version available through Bandcamp, for those not into the spools and tape scene.

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