Review: Amethyst – The Journey (Vaknar, Jun 12)

I’ve been thinking about New Zealand a lot lately, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s because I actually want to move there or to just have a nice cup of tea with Jacinda Ardern. For Jonathan Bergen, a.k.a. Amethyst, it seems to have been the latter, for in 2017 the Berlin-based artist dramatically relocated to a new residence in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Unfortunately, this journey that gives the newest Amethyst release its title was cut short by tragedy and hardship, and Bergen was forced to return to Germany despite having already found a new home. I don’t listen to as much straightforward ambient music as I used to, but Amethyst is a project I consistently return to because of its tendency towards both harsh catharsis and singular emotional weight. There are so many things buried beneath the cold keyboard melodies, plopping raindrops, distorted voices, and creeping distortion—withdrawal, regret, nostalgia, appreciation, despair, isolation—that it all blurs together into one multifaceted mass of poignancy whose effects are impossible to avoid. In my opinion, Bergen relies a little too heavily on melody on The Journey (the final track, which features heavy electronic percussion and screamed vocals, is by far the weakest), rather than turning to the dynamic brilliance of more abstract releases like 대지, but even with an occasionally banal simplicity this full-length has a lot to offer.

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