Album Review: Kieran Mahon – Eternal Return

The latest from St. Leonard’s prime manipulator of drones, loops, and echoes uses adeptly generated, cyclical synth-komische to delve into Mahon’s newly realised perspective upon the notion of ‘Eternal Return’ and everlasting life. Mahon elucidates on this realisation, saying that rather than “seeing the prospect of living life over, unknowingly, on an endless loop as depressing,”, he began to escape such a loop and embrace life wholly. Similar to the mesmerising album design- born from artist Mark Hall’s urge to capture the infinite, looping nature of the album- the music emanates a geometric, focused, stoic churn, mirroring the refreshed mentality of Mahon. Conversely, despite being “noticeably shorter” than Mahon’s “usual longer form work”, a wealth of Eternal Return has a spontaneous but exacting fluidity. This dynamic traversal, crossing to distant musicological shores while retaining a constant electronic pulse, resembles the chameleonic sensibilities propelled by Krautrock wunderkinds Harmonia.

Maintaining this measured/fluid aura is a stoically percussive, motorik-y drum beat, resounding like Kraftwerk’s emboldened propulsion. This component- used “more on this LP” than Mahon’s entire discography “over the last 8 years”- is supremely effective in illuminating his revitalised insight.

The peppy, cyclical synth and spurring percussion of Excursion and There’s No Point Running exude the vibrant electronica of Cluster. Simultaneously, the continuation of Excursion’s minimalist brightness is contrasted by the almost macabre synth contemplations: a darker synth motif repeating over the mellifluous main synth. With these looping amid swathes of dissonant drone, an achingly repeatable maelstrom is brewed- one which, in the colliding personas, echoes the identity of the album’s beginning, in what Mahon describes as “the battle to get to that realisation and enlightenment”.

Altogether more anthemic and slowly burgeoning, Looking Glass stretches Mahon artistically with superbly layered electronics. The bristling, bulging drone, scored by melancholic synth ripples, draws slight likenesses to the contorting movements of Harmonia- in their emotive, metamorphosing dalliance. The similarly chameleonic, beat-driven march at This is This’s core also evokes the krautrock greats. However, Mahon’s … isn’t remotely mimicry. Instead, the diaspora of electronic, krautrock and komische is ubiquitously individual: evident in the musician’s …. “Musically this album is probably the least clearly influenced by anything I regularly listened to. The main outcome was wanting to challenge myself and to add whatever the pieces needed and go with that.” Mahon was more influenced by the vast and spectacular range of electronic music released by his contemporaries in 2020, as well as transitioning from “…a semi-modular to a modular synth set up. I think that this was a key driving force, since a lot of the time I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. It is nice to be surprised by what you’re creating.”

The album’s latter half is pervaded by the sense of Mahon’s “acceptance and the decision on how to proceed.” Fur Immer exemplifies this stoic impression, with a steadfast synth metamorphosing it’s determined but erratic glimmer throughout, layered with new sounds spontaneously. A belligerently undulating bass is a constant parry in response to the synth, even after the synth has faded to still-bright embers it stands assured and captivating; accompanied by the drone’s textured, galvanic stride. The title track also explores Mahon’s progressive surge. An intoxicating komische of affected, elongated notes (like modified slide guitar), surreal synthetic whirs, and blanketing drone blend to intelligently exultant levels. This wondrous assemblage of sounds attests to the electronic dynamo’s goal to: “challenge myself and to add whatever the pieces needed and go with that.”

Eternal Return is an intricately executed, exploratory work which taps the author’s refreshed mentality with a cohesive array of komische, synths and loops; stirring with an organic beauty.

Released by Castles In Space on January 29th. Available in stunning White Vinyl: pre-order here.

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