It’s not really a great revelation to say that the concept of loss has inspired countless pieces of music and art over time, but it’s hard to think of a band in recent memory who’ve strived to view the topic in such an inclusive manner as Pijn. That can be a strange concept to grasp, especially when, as the arty, experimental prog band that Pijn are, they’re anything but inclusive, but in a process of creation that involved members of the public sharing their experiences with loss to use for the album, it’s clearly a final product looking to engage as wide a radius as possible. Coupled with the starkness of that single-worded title, ripping away any stipulations or boundaries regarding who can fine some form of resonance, Pijn are clearly gearing up for one gut-wrenchingly powerful listen.
And Loss certainly is that, without a shadow of a doubt, but it’s also so much more, with just as many details and intricacies for music nerds and theorists to dig into as for anyone else who just wants to be engulfed by the all-encompassing bleakness. And make no mistake – at times, Loss can be an almost oppressively dark listen as Pijn deliver their missive with laborious, crushing weight, but it’s done so in a way where it feels like every detail has been slaved over, moving away from the straightforward descent into the abyss to something a bit more open for interpretation. And for an album that’s primarily instrumental with vocals relegated to sampled passages or brief moments, that’s not nothing, with the cues from post-metal forming that base atmosphere, but it’s one that’s ultimately moved past. That’s where the attention to detail comes in, and where Pijn’s efforts greatly surpass presumed cathartic intentions; the spoken samples of Sister Rosetta Tharpe on Blanch and Uncle Seymour Washington on Squalor tie into cyclical natures that drive one forward, either interpreted as the final stage of grief to accept that loss that’s hung so heavily, or the state of repetition that brings memories up into the conscious mind and forces them to be replayed again and again. And given the reoccurring theme of the shepard tone across the album, a single note that gives the illusion of constantly descending, Pijn’s experimentation with the concept of perpetuity carries an enormous amount of weight from the layers it delves into alone.
If that was everything that Loss does, it would be plenty, but there’s still the matter of the music itself, an area where Pijn are really allowed to let loose with as much foreboding crunch as they please. And despite the relative lack of thematic richness compared to its undertones, Loss is still able to capture a crushing, claustrophobic sense of depress brilliantly, particularly on a larger scale like in the eighteen minutes of Unspoken, drifting between blackened post-metal sliced through by weeping, ominous strings before a deathly calm that leads to the final grinding explosion. Apart from Detach’s hollow, sorrowful atmosphere, Loss on the whole defaults to enormous passages of heaviness that they truly thrive at, and with tracks like Denial and Distress that operate so well within them, the whole album remains consistently compelling.
That’s hardly a shock though – Pijn have such a natural command and clear knowledge of what they’re doing, and it manifests itself excellently here. It’s certainly not an album for everyone, or even one that’s easy to just stick on on a whim, but Loss captures such a rawness and openness that’s so easy to appreciate regardless. There have been very few instrumental albums this year that feel as conceptually realised as this one does, and though Pijn are guaranteed not to get the widespread appreciation for that, it can’t be ignored all the same.
For fans of: Bossk, Svalbard, Neurosis
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Loss’ by Pijn is released on 26th October on Holy Roar Records.