This isn’t a sonic metaphor; this is an existential crisis.
01/01/2023 primordial undermind / review
An Imaginal Abydos is the first album by Primordial Undermind in more than a decade. You might suppose that the instrumental passage that opens its first song, “Möglicher, Möglicher/Rekursiv” (which translates from German as “Possible, Possible/Recursive”), is a metaphor for the band’s emergence. It builds from gently shimmering guitars to a heavy lurch, like some giant rising from an extended slumber. But then bandleader Eric Arn opens his mouth, fulminating contradictions like Mike Watt barking his way through a thesaurus. This isn’t a sonic metaphor; this is an existential crisis. As the words tumble out, Arn sounds like he’s been waiting far too long to tell you what’s on his mind. Eventually, language gives way to a tension-shattering guitar eruption before the song finally shudders to a close, nearly 10 minutes after it began.
Singer/guitarist Arm has been leading incarnations of Primordial Undermind since 1989. Originally an American band (with successive chapters in California, Massachusetts and Texas), it has been based in Vienna since 2005, Everyone else in the current lineup—Antonio Rosa de Pauli (bass, xylophone), Xavier Scholz (drums) and Christoph Johannes Weikinger (guitar, vocals)—is European. Anyone following Arn through his album releases might be surprised to learn that the Undermind is still around, as he’s spent the last decade making improvisational instrumental music under his own name and with various collaborators. But it turns out that the combo has been alive all along; it just doesn’t travel far from home.
An Imaginal Abydos’s cataclysmic opener proves a hard act to follow. But even if not everything on the record scales the same heights, you can always hear Primordial Undermind reaching, infusing both languid psychedelic reveries and hepped-up, feedback-laden purgations of spleen with undeniable urgency.