Not Knowing is a single, continuous piece of music that undergoes an amazing transformation. Throughout its 53 minutes, the music alters itself, finding a way to constantly evolve. The longer the piece progresses, the longer the calm lingers. At first, a low rumble purrs against the side of the music, humming at a deep, deep sub-level; the underground parking lot and its intermittent lighting pulsates against a black backdrop. It is instantly mysterious and alien in sound, which isn’t a particular feature in Nicholas Szczepanik’s music. Despite the early vibrations it’s a relatively smooth ride, and there is a sense of continual movement within the low thrum. It slowly soothes and becomes beautiful in its own way, massaging the ears and the mind as the piece starts to unfurl.
Dedicated to Eliane Radigue, Not Knowing was released as an 18 minute piece under Szczepanik’s Ante Algo Azul series. However, Szczepanik has decided to stretch and further expand the piece, and with this increased length a beautiful remnant becomes a towering statue.
Higher frequencies rise out of their slumber, glowing with some kind of eerie light that aims to settle the listener into a trance, dropping even deeper into the music before the eventual stunning awakening. The anticipation is there, as is the throbbing tension made known by the deep purr of the bass. As the first melodic blossom emerges, we see the opening of spring’s petals, unravelling before our eyes and layered in warm arms of sunshine. Despite the warm rays, the ambient harmony is prone to the thin, susceptible cool of the breeze that announces the dying breath of winter.
And then we are set adrift, left to float in the glorious burst of light that only the wonderful release can bring. Beautiful, fragile strings sit in the deep end, dripping with a creamy tone and yet thin enough to rise through the underlying layer of ambient drone. It has a soft romantic air, along with a gentle and loving touch. This new haven, the one that we’ve found, has the colour of gentle peach and vanilla, the sunshine of the swell indicating the presence of solace. And although the strings are elegant – their classical nature brings some finesse – they sway and coalesce inside the vortex. Like one of those overly sensual commercials for ice cream or yogurt, the music is an alluring, sentimental mixture. As the perfumed harmony swells, you can feel the release of pressure, the tranquillity of weightlessness and the brighter, airy hope for tomorrow.
We are back safely inside the ambient dream. The golden harmony fades away as if soaked by a sudden downpour of rain, but it always returns. An almost angelic strand of melody descends over the music, covering the original melody with a clean, enveloping purity and wrapping it in sheets of white. It expands further, escaping the pressured pull of gravity, propelled into the cosmos. The opening vibrations may just as easily have been rocket thrusters departing to a strange paradise. By this stage you are most likely breathless, despite the slow-moving panorama. The strings then virtually disappear, returning to the ether from where they came.
The drones, transcendent in tone, sing of massive stars and pillars of tinted dust, hinting at something wider, greater, outside of our peripheral vision and perspective; perhaps a different dimension. At its end, the chiming drone is all that is left. The music closes in on itself, the universe inhaling and sucking itself back inwards until it resembles a miniscule point of distant light.
At some indeterminate point – you’re unaware of exactly when it happens – the vibrations come back, creeping in to reclaim everything.