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Tzolk’in – Tonatiuh

Tzolk'in - Tonatiuh

CD, Ant-Zen, 2010

It’s more than likely that most free-thinking people have, at some point, entered one of those new-age, crystal healing type of shops. It’s also quite possible that they’ve been confronted, amidst all the patchouli-scented headscarves and wind chimes, with CD compilations of ancient Central American civilisation-inspired meditative music, composed with the express purpose of stilling the mind and preparing the soul for the shifts in consciousness various 2012 doomsday prophecies espouse. It is, however, an absolute certainty that not a single one of these recordings are the work of Tzolk’in, the antithesis of all these so-called musicians and purveyors of all things unsettling.
That said, “Tonatiuh”, the newest album from this collaborative project between Empusae and Flint Glass, does have one thing in common with mantra music of this sort: atmosphere. Of course, the oppressive humidity of untamed jungles is hardly the same as the glittering, rainbow-spattered waterfalls and soft bird calls that the weak of purpose pursue so wholeheartedly, and it is that unbridled ferocity that lurks within the sweeping vistas painted by this pair, peppered with neo-primitive rhythms that excite the soul and unleash adrenal secretions in the listener. Mood music? Definitely. Just not the mediocre, safe moods society would have us celebrate. This album activates a hidden aspect of the subconscious, a primitive memory-form that recalls the bloody daily struggle between man and nature – not for supremacy, but simply for survival. Powerful, stirring stuff, indeed.
The Aztec imagery in the track listing (from “Mictlantecuhtli” through to “Quetzalcoatl”, an entire pantheon of Mesoamerican gods are present) and the album artwork, not to mention the very name Tzolk’in being lifted from the very calendar that predicts the end of the world in just under two years, remains perfectly valid, however. As the press release so cheerfully points out, it is estimated that approximately 20,000 human sacrifices were performed by this enigmatic civilisation annually at its peak, and the blood fever associated with this is an undeniable presence looming behind the creeping advance of Tzolk’in’s music.
The broad spectrum of sounds created by Tzolk’in on “Tonatiuh” will appeal to followers of industrial, ambient and even some psytrance; it’s a wonderful illustration of tribal sensibilities, executed in a contemporary, cutting-edge electronic medium. That said, wearers of tie-dyed shirts, salon-matted dreadlocks and other alien abductees may not have the stomach for this beautifully chilling record…


— David van der Merwe

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