In this feverish, identity-bludgeoned, algorithm-driven world, it’s more than refreshing to hear work driven by pure process. Work where the listener can grasp for their own form of understanding, however fleeting. It’s liberating.
This is the chance we are given with The Great Image Has No Form by Matthijs Kouw; a mammoth, very inclusive four-track essay in human reflection; inspired by Kouw’s interest in Daoism and his visit to China’s Wudang mountains, where he studied Chinese meditation and martial arts.
Musically the record begins by dragging up memories of that other great sonic barrage balloon, T-Dream’s Zeit. In fact some of more noticeable sonic forays on opening track The Dao is Achieved Through Discipline, give a strong impression of Froese’s gang in action. If we descend to the astral plane, we can maybe also draw comparison to stuff on Type or Kranky; Anjou’s recent work springs to mind.
Drones are what we get, and then some. But, unlike many other records in this field there is a strong sense of movement, or physicality; of ideas actively formulating as the work progresses. I suppose this is how we are meant to hear Kouw’s experiences of the Chinese landscape. There are plenty of switches and changes of course that go hand in hand with this impression. For example there is a noticeable ramping up of pressure and hardening of the sonic palette during Immersed in the Roar of Crickets on Approaching the Temple. Was this linked to a particular memory of a (solitary) decision taken in real life? It certainly feels so.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, given the story behind the making of this release, there’s a quiet sort of individual romanticism at play. Tracks like But To Whom Will They Be Told? and the glorious Sword Practice evoke great feeling – even if gradually. This “human” element to the work reminds me of the approach of another great contemporary Dutch electronic artist, Martin Comes.
Over all The Great Image Has No Form is a very refreshing, even invigorating listen. In fact it’s rare to be compelled to write in a feverish state of excitement about an hour or so of drone music inspired by Daoism, but there you have it.