‘Compassion’ sounds like a warm and fuzzy word. And yet, when you think about it, it is almost the opposite. Compassion is essentially the sympathetic consciousness of and concern for the suffering, distress and misfortunes of others. Its Latin roots translate it almost literally as “suffer with”. Not so warm and fuzzy then? I mention this because it is something I hadn’t thought about before listening to Compasionizer’s debut album, Caress of Compassion. I was expecting something cosy and comfortable, warm and inviting, and what I heard did not always match those expectations. So, then a ‘Caress of Suffering’, an almost paradoxical combination of ugliness and beauty wrapped up in twelve exquisite and atmospheric tracks, at once subtle and grandiose.
The album pulls the listener in gently with the quite beautiful yet vaguely unsettling Whole. There’s a quote about compassion that I’ve seen do the rounds on social media several times over the year. It wasn’t too hard to find an example, and this is what it said: “I don’t just listen to your words. I listen to your use of words, your tone, your body movements, your eyes, your subtle face expressions. I interpret your silences. I can hear everything you don’t say.” Whole seems to be as much about what isn’t present, than is. So while it might declare itself to be ‘Whole’, it leaves me feeling that it isn’t. “I’m fine”, it declares in words, while all other cues suggest otherwise. It’s an absolutely fabulous opening number.
At this point, I should point out that the files I received did not have complete names, so ‘Whole’ was indeed not at all whole, as it is actually The Whole Creation Travaileth in Pain Together. So I reviewed an album based upon what I was hearing, and inferring, and it seemed to match the titles of the tracks. Yet they were not the full titles. I wondered whether to start the review again with this new knowledge, but instead merely inserted this paragraph as explanation.
The blurb I received declared Caress of Compassion to be “Melodic Atmospheric World Avant Music”, and one aspect that I love about this is the various textures and tones provided by using instruments from both the west and the east. As Whole progressed, it started to remind me of the recent album from 3,14 which fused the instruments and instrumentation of west and east in a musical representation of the various peoples and cultures spread along the length of the legendary Silk Road. And yet, the ghost of Roz Vitalis (from which Ivan Rozmainsky of Compassionizer will no doubt be better known) is ever present, giving Compassionizer an avant edge missing from that descriptive blurb.
Street feels like a somnambulant walk down familiar roads, which I am prone to doing on routes so well known I can walk them on autopilot. There’s a sense of haze and daze, and the beat is almost hypnotic, disappearing at times, the way I can be conscious of my footsteps, then not, as I drift away in my thoughts while continuing to walk. It’s over before I know it – just like those walks down those familiar streets. I had to check if it were just an interlude, because it seemed to be only a minute or so long. But actually, it’s almost three-and-a-half minutes long.
The intriguingly titled How Poems is beautifully minimal, and yet very much present. Unlike Street’s sleepwalking quality, How Poems booms and resonates in a quiet fashion, that precludes passive listening. I love what I assume is a bass clarinet in this number. It’s absolutely wonderful. But further delights are not at all far away! Caress #1 begins with a delicate, almost Disney-like melody. It’s the most beautiful passage so far, not seeming to have an undercurrent of something not so beautiful. This doesn’t last too long, though, as it becomes less assured. The chiming delicacy of this Caress is irresistible.
Beware begins in a suitably spooky and ominous manner. The beat that kicks in comes as a complete surprise (though not a jump scare), and it’s almost like listening to psychedelic-era Porcupine Tree, mixed with soundtrack-era Ulver. It’s a trick and a treat – and it’s a glorious and unexpected one. So much so, that when the darkness returns with Heart (heart of darkness?), I suddenly realise I have been as incautious as Red Riding Hood, and forgotten to heed my warning. Beware? I heard no wolves (unless you count the aforementioned Ulver). Heart sounds almost like an admonishment, nevertheless. It almost comes across as a conversation between two parties – one of which is giving the other some truths. There’s a back and forth movement to the piece, but one half of this is definitely in a stronger position than the other.
I’m only halfway through the album. I could go on, but I feel like this is something that, if you’ve read this far and are still interested, you’re already caught in the Sinkhole. Compassion can be misguided, and I’m well aware that I’m quite possibly reading into the music ideas which come from my own personal circumstances. Caress of Compassion feels like an album that will make every person feel something different, but will also without doubt make the listener think. This is the compassion, I feel, as the listener is drawn to think about what the music is telling them (or, as I alluded to earlier on, not telling them). Caress of Compassion is not a passive listening experience. It is not always a comfortable listening experience. But it is always a beautiful listening experience, and part of that beauty is the empathy the listener has for the music. This might well be Ivan Rozmainsky’s best work yet! Wow!
01. The Whole Creation Travaileth in Pain Together (7:16)
02. Street Out of Sleep (3:22)
03. How Poems Lose Relevance (4:15)
04. Caress of Compassion (Part 1) (3:22)
05. Beware of Evil Workers (3:47)
06. Heart to Heart Talk (4:04)
07. Sinkhole (3:29)
08. Caress of Compassion (Part 2) (2:13)
09. 1907 (5:14)
10. When It Is Too Late to Love (3:06)
11. My Soul as a Thirsty Land (5:13)
12. Caress of Compassion (Part 3) (3:04)
Serghei Liubcenco – Guitar, Doira, Rubab, Recording
Leonid Perevalov – Clarinets, Bass Clarinets, Recording
Ivan Rozmainsky – Conception, Keyboards, Percussion, Recording
Natalia Fyodorova – Gusli
Yurii Groiser – Drums & Programming
Stanislava Malakhovskaya – Harp
Oleg Prilutsky – Trumpet
Record Label: ArtBeat Music
Country of Origin: Russia
Date of Release: 18th September 2020