Relics of Rama sees the return of Konntinent (aka Antony Harrison) after a five-year gap. It’s ‘an open-hearted love letter to sci-fi soundtracks and the Yamaha DX7’, and all proceeds will go to the NHS and UNICEF. The diverse and expansive Relics of Rama is emotionally and tonally deep; an entire electronic nebula of dark, spiralling tones and strobing lights. But even closer to home, the music lives an urban lifestyle, populating quiet streets in the early hours of a Saturday morning, lighting up suburbia with a vast array of twinkling sounds that could also be thought of as fallen stars, in touch with the gutter and the night bus.
The sprawling electronics have a dark heart, but they’re able to feel warm, too. Notes throb and radiate outwards, and the comforting warmth of a blurred feminine vocal, provided by Marie-Pacale Hardy, is an extra covering, helping to smoothen the record, never wanting it to become robotic or automatic. Although saying that, the repeating phrases of an AI or something similar to Alexa become dominant as and when they’re inserted into the music, the stark, cool pronunciations providing a new, sleek rhythm. The music feels reassuring and chilled instead of vengeful, similar to the bright, clean start-up chimes of Windows 95 and a safer, more innocent world instead of data-leaks and dark webs. Like unreleased software from 1995 or thereabouts, the chimes carry a slight flavour of vaporwave, and the electronics have an edgier side that keep them away from sterility.
The monk-like chants of ‘Deceit’ are muddied-up in the background, and this is where Konntinent really excels, because he’s able to blur the distinctions between the mundane and the utopic, and the urban with the fantastic; the brighter sounds could be radiating from a secret temple, from a lost civilisation such as the Incas or the Aztecs, while the lilting notes and synth-bleeds sidle up to the rainy, electronic-washed streets of a digitalised New World. At other times, the electronic sci-fi setting of an urban metropolis morphs into an imagined rainforest or an exotic locale, with sparkling notes and mystical chimes creating even more space. The disciplined rhythm of ‘Choice’ is interwoven with a machine-like vocal and a leaking progression stops it from freezing over. In fact, the swelling, slightly delayed synth is an ambient sound if ever there was one, and there are softer elements within the music that help to angle its face away from a chilly slab of electronica and an ice-cold bottle of Coke and towards the chilled-out, indigo light of a summer’s evening, spent on vacation somewhere, a mojito in hand, instead of being confined to an office and its endless, monotonous whirring of desktop fans and daydreams.
Just when things are in danger of straying into a harder electronica, the music strays back home, pausing to bathe in its romantic ambient afterglow, with plenty of divine space and plenty of space for the divine. The record seems to swing between the two, its momentum as undeniable as gravity, rocking it back and forth like a pendulum. The electronics are alive, breathing fresh mint onto the record. As one would expect, Relics of Rama seeks a transformation, a transcendence. The music is a form of escapism, as real, as immersive, and as close to the touch as virtual reality.