We all have those albums that feel like they are something more than music, more than just another record in our collection. These albums are works of art and steadfast companions to us in the grim of life; sometimes those albums that connect with us during difficult times end up being the ones we remember and cherish forever. I think the debut album from Remina has become one such album for me. Strata releases on November 11th, but I feel like I’ve been listening to it all my life.
Remina is a duo of familiar faces. On vocals and synth, we have Heike Langhans of ex-ISON, ex-Draconian, Light Field Reverie, and Lor3l3i. On guitar, drums, bass, and synth, we have Mike Lamb of Sojourner and Light Field Reverie. These two musicians have meant so much to me over the last few years, especially, and their collaboration on this new project is like the vivifying icing on the cosmic cake.
Remina has both a simple sound, and a complex one. Their style is simple in that it focuses on beautiful, spacious atmospheres along with darker edges that flit along the proverbial periphery. It hovers and floats with utter grace, pregnant with quantum currents and poetic sighs. On the other hand, it is multilayered. It is a doom project, but more like doom post-metal than the typical death doom. There are darkwave and cosmic drone elements married to this, as well. So, the album can feel heavy at times, but more in the magnitude of the emotions than in the aggression of the guitars.
There are various reasons I love this album. Heike is one of my favorite vocalists, not expending so much energy into technical theatrics as she does into the gravity of the moment, the whispers from beyond, the articulation of the darkest and most beautiful corners of our minds. I also love how Strata streams into consciousness with a mysterious purity, unwilling to hurry or impress with frank bombast. No, this album is existential honey, dripping along the edges of the cosmos of our hearts. It feels both within and without, alien and earthly, life-giving and tragic.
There is a treasured storytelling style to this record. Heike is a gifted lyricist as she weaves tales based on various sci-fi inspirations and sources, but also in how she cuts to the beating heart of our deepest longings as human beings facing the unknown of both every day, and also the infinitude of reality. She has that effect in every project, honestly, and her lyrics are consistently enlivening and enlightening.
Another thing I like about Strata is its subtle drive. While the music is mostly spacey and flush with eternity, Mike lays down plenty of distortion to give the music even more flavor. I love the trippy synths and the elongated choruses, full of dreams and human sensations. When listening to this album, I can almost reach out and touch the texture it creates.
I mentioned that this album has been a companion for me. It’s been a difficult couple years, honestly, and when Remina released three songs in 2021, they became my comfort music. I’ve listened to “Aeon Rains”, “Obsidian”, and “Dying Sun” countless times. I love these songs so much. “Aeon Rains” is a enigmatic opener with storms of expression and shadowy rhythms. That was my favorite for a long time, but then “Obsidian” took that mantle with its slow burning elegance and floating ambient moments interspersed with murky riffs. Then “Dying Sun” took the lead with its edged aura that foments subtly and brilliantly near the end.
I hate when I love the singles, but the rest of the album disappoints. Strata does not do this. The remaining four songs are all terrific. I love the mournful light of “Icarus Signal” and the deep suspension of “Ilos”. These two songs are absolutely gorgeous, and, who knows, they might be my favorite at one point or another.
I think my two favorite tracks, for now, are “The Endless City” and “Back in Time”. The former is such a mighty track, even if it is somewhat reserved, as well. I will say that it is probably the heaviest, though, with steady guitarwork and shifting atmospheric elements that feel like a futuristic city. The last few minutes raise the hairs on my neck as the intensity of both the guitars and vocals spirals upwards with fierce illumination. Now, “Back in Time” is an introspective closer, and, the first few times I heard it, I wondered why the band chose to end with what initially felt like an anticlimax. But as I’ve leaned into it, the gentle energy it possesses has been revealed to me. It is mostly spacious vocals from Heike as she weeps a cavern of sorrows. Soon enough, Mike’s guitars bring some muscle, and the cinematic ending never fails to inspire me now.
Remina’s Strata is certainly one of the best albums of the year. I love the ghostly evocation it brings even with more concrete doom elements and cosmic joys. Even while some of this album feels sorrowful and mournful, it also feels illuminating and invigorating. It’s one of those albums that buries its beloved roots deeply and the wise listener will delve diligently to find them. I’ve been doing so for some time now, and the imbedded profundity at this album’s core continues to unveil itself.
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