Agitated Atmosphere: Decimus - 4, 8, and 9

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Decimus.

Private pressing are a marvelous occurrence; a brave endeavor that allows a musician to test their boundaries through a limited amount of media. So few are able to hear the transformation until such a time when the artist is ready to re-emerge in full bloom.

Pat Murano slightly usurps this province. His Kelippah imprint has allowed him to explore his latest musical alter-ego, Decimus, under the radar from fans of his previous work (most notably as a member of No Neck Blues Band). Yet the limited flow of material is rendered inconsequential due to the sheer number of albums Murano has released under the Decimus banner (seven of a planned 12 dedicated to the zodiac of Latin poet and project namesake, Decimus Magnus Ausonious, have already been released). Here we examine three of these self-released albums: 4, 8, and 9.

At the heart of Decimus lies synthesizer and guitar. 4 wastes no breath before blowing variable degrees of synthesized sound across its vinyl palette. The brilliance in Murano’s A-side composition is its stable instability. It rattles and hums with the ferocity of an ancient boiler, ready to explode as the mechanism is pressed to its limits. But Murano relents, organically changing course once the experiment yields results, effortless moving onto the next appliance to test. Side B, however, turns sinister. Its undercurrent reflects the opposite of the A-side; civilization destroyed after we’ve taken it all too far. The bellows become deeper and angrier, the hums higher pitched as the release valves vent steam with apocalyptic victory. The machines have won despite heavy losses.

8 is a far different beast. Still maintaining some of the metallic abrasiveness of 4, it’s also steeped in more traditional forms of music storytelling. Side A begins with a repetitive organ motif; a church organist trying to figure out where to go next with his latest fugue. It bleeds into the frantic party next door, with heavy club beats and synth streaks causing an epileptic rave. The third act takes into the final home on the imagined block, where the festivities next door have yet to affect the science-fiction marathon of intense drone and alien buzzing that soundtracks a pictureless film. The B-side finds the disparate homes combining into one inside the stomach of a demon who has swallowed them whole and taken them to hell. It’s a warped and scary hell Murano creates; each of us unable to prevent it when comfortably numbed by our own distractions.

Showing the variables at play with each Decimus release, 9 is a meditative affair. The vivid imagery of 4 and 8 give way to contemplation. Murano is far more subtle, though the intensity remains under the surface. Unlike 4 and 8, 9 also plays as a whole through both sides. The subtle textures of hushed synth are a theme running throughout, punctuated only slightly when Murano grows tired of his vast, nearly spotless wasteland. 9 is the nuclear winter to 4 and 8’s bleak station.

But Murano’s work isn’t to be feared. Through the gnarled strands of music, these Decimus releases rekindle the imagination and remind us creativity in the arts is still alive. With each listen, these albums change into narratives that match mood, lending Decimus a flexibility often missing from contemporary experimentation’s rigid progression. What lies next in Murano’s plan is eagerly anticipated as Decimus will find new labels to call home in 2012.

Justin Spicer is a freelance journalist whose work can be viewed at his website. You can also find him on Twitter.

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