Plumbiferous Media

The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist - Junius

Nov 19th 2009
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The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist - JuniusJunius
The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist
Score: 78

Junius began its musi­cal career in 2004 with the release of its debut EP, Forc­ing out the Silence. Over the fol­low­ing five years, the band released a sec­ond EP and then a self-titled LP, devel­op­ing its sound into the post-rock influ­enced sound of its newest album, The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist. The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist is a con­cept album focus­ing on the life of Immanuel Velikovsky, a psy­chi­a­trist who, in his own field of study, focused on Freudi­an psy­chother­a­py but lat­er became inter­est­ed in cos­mol­o­gy, propos­ing a the­o­ry that the Earth had expe­ri­enced numer­ous “close-con­tacts” with oth­er plan­ets, as well as a rather unique view of his­to­ry based upon this view. Though Velikovsky’s cos­mo­log­i­cal views are large­ly refut­ed by mod­ern schol­ars, the fan­tas­tic nature of his idea of the world con­tin­ues to cap­ti­vate the minds of so-called “cat­a­strophists.” It is this view of the world that serves as the inspi­ra­tion for The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist, cre­at­ing a thor­ough­ly inter­est­ing album which man­ages to car­ry over the pro­found sense of the extra­or­di­nary from the the­o­ries of Velikovsky.

Com­bin­ing the musi­cal­i­ty of post-rock with the reg­u­lar use of vocals, The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist is an expert­ly played album. The album often delves into uncom­mon rhyth­mic pat­terns and so it is unsur­pris­ing that the drum line comes across as one of the strongest on almost any giv­en track. Of par­tic­u­lar note is “A Drama­tist Plays Cat­a­strophist,” in which the con­trast­ing, yet inter­lock­ing rhythms of the drums and vocals are fur­ther com­pli­cat­ed and glo­ri­fied by the also rhyth­mi­cal­ly unique gui­tar lines. This track then con­trasts excel­lent­ly with its suc­ces­sor, “Ten Year Librar­i­an,” which, while over­all notice­ably less inter­est­ing than pre­vi­ous tracks, has an extreme­ly cre­ative mid­dle sec­tion in which the entire track is bro­ken down until only a drum line remains, upon which the track then slow­ly, care­ful­ly rebuilds itself.

More than the rhythms though, it is in moments, tran­si­tions, and paths where the album shows its worth. Excel­lent­ly dynam­ic, tracks grow, tran­si­tion effort­less­ly, and move between themes per­fect­ly (although tracks late in the album are not quite as suc­cess­ful in this regard as ear­li­er tracks). One effect this often has on the lis­ten­er is to block him from con­cen­trat­ing heav­i­ly on the music, and instead become engulfed in the image the band projects through the album. There is lit­tle that is eas­i­ly iden­ti­fi­able as unde­sir­able on The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist. The one excep­tion might be the over­ly gra­tu­itous choir of the final track.

Junius’ music relies upon a spa­cy, post-rock-like feel, fur­ther accen­tu­at­ed and made unique by Joseph Mar­tinez’s ethe­re­al vocals. Mar­tinez’s voice roams through The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist in an almost ghost­ly fash­ion, cre­at­ing an echo­ing sound that which is remark­ably com­ple­men­tary to the instru­men­tals - a sec­ond stream of sound which is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly sim­i­lar to and com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent from the musi­cal base of the album. The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist is also inter­spersed with record­ings of Immanuel Velikovsky him­self, explain­ing the the­o­ries which made him so con­tro­ver­sial and upon which the album is found­ed. Expert mix­ing makes these sec­tions incred­i­bly inter­est­ing, as Velikovsky expounds upon catastrophism.

The sort of music played by Junius is quite frankly per­fect for a musi­cal con­sid­er­a­tion of Velikovsky - what­ev­er your opin­ion on his the­o­ries, it is hard to deny that the immense, con­stant ener­gy present in The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist does an excel­lent job at bring­ing to mind the near-col­li­sions of cat­a­strophism in an impres­sive­ly vivid way. Lyri­cal­ly, the album also has par­al­lels to Velikovsky in its mix­ture of inquis­i­tive­ness and sur­re­al­ism. On “The Ante­dilu­vian Fire,” Mar­tinez sings of “the need­ing to know” - per­haps the best way of describ­ing the ques­tions inher­ent behind such seem­ing­ly curi­ous the­o­ries as Velikovsky’s.

The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist is an excel­lent mix­ing of a large num­ber of relat­ed gen­res. It draws incred­i­ble amounts of ener­gy into its ele­ments, which it steadi­ly releas­es in care­ful­ly direct­ed streams, each com­bin­ing to form a del­i­cate­ly bal­anced, but musi­cal­ly pow­er­ful track. And while there is cer­tain­ly a degree of qual­i­ty dif­fer­ences between tracks, even the weak­est of tracks on The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist stays away even from medi­oc­rity. Over­all, The Mar­tyr­dom of a Cat­a­strophist is quite good.

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