*Written by Christian Cortes for Keyframe-Entertainment / Evolver EDM
The modern era of music and sound is not a quiet one — its identity is sown in the technological advancements of humanity and, to many, the unending desire to drown out the cacophony of noise that is life in the sprawling tale of mankind. Daily, we are engulfed by the rumbling of engines, the grinding of machinery, the buzzing of cell phones, and the persistent roar of a hungry civilization rising higher into the skies with each orbit our clamorous rock makes around the sun. We are bound in servitude to the very product of our existence, and the heights to which we must go to find refuge from this aural assault grows with each passing day.
Silence—the one sanctuary the natural world has always offered to its inhabitants—has become a novelty to our tired ears and minds.
Yet, the rise of technology and global communication has also brought with it a panacea of sorts as the advent of digital recording and music production, noise-cancelling technology, and streaming music has made music and isolated sound accessible to more listeners around the globe than ever before. Slowly, we are learning to carve out our own personal sanctuaries from the noise, be it with the wailing cry of an electric guitar, the thunderous boom of a 50,000-watt sound system, or the meditative drone of a tanpura.
In search of this elusive silence, ambient-improvisation project Hipnotic Earth is the tale of one man’s journey toward the curative embedded within the very nature of sound. Following a life-changing encounter with hyperacusis—a debilitating hearing disorder that causes increased sensitivity to certain frequencies and volume ranges—this career musician’s love affair with music was turned upside down. The journey that soon transpired was one that forced him to reevaluate not only his relationship with music, but with life itself.
Cosmos Rennert’s descent into hyperacusis began in late 2014 when noise became, in a word, torturous. Frequencies above 10,000Hz—just half of where the normal intersection of human hearing and pain is experienced—intensified to his ears by anywhere from 20-50dB, cranking the volume of his reality up to extremes that threw his nervous system into a nearly constant state of disorientation. Anything so loud as the crumpling of a bread wrapper, the clang of silverware lightly touching a plate, the squeak of an old faucet, or the sound of laugher and commotion had suddenly become intolerable.
This experience would challenge any creature’s ability to navigate life, and for a musician with a fondness for instruments, DJing, live looping, jamming, dancing, and the boisterous energy of a good party, it was devastating.
It was at this point that Cosmos Rennert, determined to find a new sanctuary for not only his ears and mind, but for his creative spirit, began his journey into what he would come to call “hypnotic music.” Delving into the seemingly endless musical libraries of the human collective, Rennert was soon swept away by the calming, restful, and deep textures of ambient audio. His hyperactive mind and troubled heart were quieted as the soothing soundscapes he encountered began the slow process of healing his parasympathetic nervous system, and gradually, the musician in him found the silence it needed to focus and be reborn.
Coming from a background of jazz, traditional drumming and conscious dance music, Rennert’s interpretation of sound now shifted away from the principles of build-up and release he and so many other musicians across the eons had built their art upon. Diving deeper and deeper into the stretched-out musical phrases of ambient music—the slow-motion washes of soft instrumentation as it evolves and fades through the darkness of space, undisturbed by what precedes or follows—Rennert’s musical explorations and studio improvisations began to take shape.
Distilled from noise and the inner pursuit of silence, the electro-acoustic ambient project Hipnotic Earth was born.
Of course, life has a tenacity for throwing new obstacles across one’s path just as the great reveal seems to be arriving. In September 2015, less than a year after being stricken with hyperacusis and on the cusp of his debut album release, Rennert’s home of seventeen years in the hot springs of Harbin, Northern California was consumed by a massive wildfire. In the blink of a moment, his home, studio, workspace, possessions, and personal temple in the small community built around the hot springs were all swept away by flames.
Even within the quiet sanctuary of his home, the noise and chaos of the world beyond had proven itself inescapable. Yet, in the wake of the tragedy, Hipnotic Earth persisted as not only an outlet for his music (his first album, Essence, would go on to be released a few weeks later), but as an expanding experiment into the very essence of sound as a vehicle for healing and taming the wildness of the sensory world.
Just a few years later, Hipnotic Earth releases its fifth studio album: Extended Savasana.
Like the soundtrack for a daydream, Rennert’s wandering musical portraits are a detour from the variegated distribution of tension so vividly portrayed in traditional music. A persisting tonality resonates throughout the collection, so subtle that one might mistake it for silence as the gentleness of each composition softly laps against the shores of one’s consciousness. Listening with an active ear, a holographic world emerges as bird calls at twilight, wind whispers through trees, and the gentle stirring of water provide an acoustic backdrop for the soft and delicate play of instruments and colorful organic samples.
This is music that is conceived without agenda; with “a love for not remembering how a song is made,” as Rennert puts it. The sounds are arranged and colored at a later point, long after the recording and the offerings of the moment have passed, never to be replicated again. The philosophy of creation is written in improvisation, giving Hipnotic Earth’s tranquil soundscapes a fluidity of form capable of activating space both within and beyond the listener.
Invited into the ambient temple, the listener is greeted by a musical incense that pulls them inward and away from the noise of the world outside. The space is fragrant with sonic molecules and sourceless melodies that, to some, might trigger memories of walking barefoot in the sand where the foggy sea meets the mountains, or sitting between the trees as the falling sun paints the landscape ahead in yellow and gold.
In the tradition of yoga, savasana, the “pose of repose,” marks not only the completion of an asana practice, but the conscious release point of stressful energy accumulated in the practice of life itself. It is the longest-held and arguably most difficult pose in yoga, demanding stillness of body and mind in the practitioner in order to achieve its aim of destroying fatigue and agitation from the world outside.
It is nonetheless the posture open to the widest interpretation, for the states one achieves in its practice are measured almost entirely within the subjective realm of the interior.
Perhaps this is the experience from which Extended Savasana draws its name. While the basic function of the music may promote relaxation, there is a deeply meditative side to this collection that defies the entire concept of purpose. Unlike most musical arrangements, which use the principles of drama and musical theory to elucidate emotion and traverse the highs and lows of the human experience, Hipnotic Earth exists independently of the environments from which it has been drawn, arranged, and even replayed.
Its purpose, if such a thing can even be assigned to these ephemeral soundscapes, is merely to be heard. The experiences that follow are up to the listener, for no two circumstances will ever be quite the same.
ABOUT ‘EXTENDED SAVASANA’:
In search of silence, ambient artist Hipnotic Earth has found a calling in ephemeral improvisational meditations that appear out of the stillness, linger a while, and then vanish from whence they came.
Extended Savasana is an inviting new album from the multi-instrumentalist, who has collected seven sonic journeys meant to guide the listener inward, to a place of deep stillness and even sleep. Desert Trax is thrilled to host this unique album, which almost never came to be. Hipnotic Earth’s Harbin Hot Springs home and studio were destroyed by wildfire, but thankfully recordings of those very springs are a unifying feature of this collection. From the opening drones of “Slow Light,” into “Footsteps of the Ancients,” and on through “Perfect Quiet” and “Releasing” the centering beauty and quest for quiet is a truly meaningful experience.
Cosmos says: “Tension!!! Release… in large part is what compromises music. In breaking this rule and focusing on sustained, never-ending release, this music aims to increase the vagal tone and activate the para-sympathetic nervous system which increases the all-important heart rate variability (HRV), which is important for managing anxiety and stress.”
Hipnotic Earth’s Extended Savasana comes to Desert Trax June 21st.