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Album Stream: Perpetuum Mobile – Paradoxa Emblemata

Our loyal Vault Hunters may recall that a couple of weeks back we premiered a pair of tracks from Perpetuum Mobile‘s forthcoming release Paradoxa Emblemata:  “I – Perpetuum Mobile” and “VI – Abyssal Nothing.” If you don’t remember, or if you somehow missed it the first time around, you can get yourself up to speed here. It’s cool – I don’t mind waiting…

We all caught up? Awesome. Now…where was I going with this? Oh yeah…

So our loyal Vault Hunters who do indeed recall that piece from a couple of weeks back also likely remember that the conceptual basis for Paradoxa Emblemata sent me down a few Internet rabbit holes, but that the process of doing so left me with more new questions than answers. To recap:

– Paradoxa Emblemata was inspired by a book of the same name by German-born, London-based Christian mystic and alchemist Dionysius Andreas Freher (1649-1728). The book is a collection of 153 abstract hieroglyphs and emblems…

– that were inspired by the writings of another German mystic and Protestant theologian, Jakob Böhme (1575-1624). His writings were considered so heretical that he was eventually exiled from his home village of Görlitz by the chief pastor.

What specifically was so heretical about Böhme’s writings? Well…that’s what I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to figure out. And frankly, I’ve found a lot of information both related to the topic of heresy and not, but  don’t know how relevant most of it is to a discussion of this album. There is one thing that stands out, though: Böhme wrote often of what he called the ‘outflown word,’ or the language of nature – i.e. the language of nature that Adam used to name all the animals, which was lost to man after the people of Shinar attempted to build a tower in Babal that was tall enough to each Heaven (as told in Genesis 11:1-9). Some of Böhme’s followers believed that he had somehow deciphered this universal language of nature, and that on some level he spoke the hieroglyphical language of God. Thus, Freher’s emblematic drawings in the Paradoxa Emblemata were an attempt on his part to take Böhme’s ideas and render them in such a way that they would once again be understandable to people of all languages.

Whether Freher was successful in his quest or not is a matter of opinion – I’d say he probably only confused matters further, but whatever. The significant thing here is that each of the ten songs on Paradoxa Emblemata uses one or more of Freher’s illustrations as inspiration, and takes it lyrics from the corresponding emblem.

Unlike the last time I wrote about this record, I’ve now had a chance to read the lyrics for Paradoxa Emblemata, and…well, they’re definitely paradoxa. Since I’m fairly certain the lyrics come directly from Böhme’s writings, The things that surprises me the most about them, though, is that they have the same sort of poetic contradictions that 6th century BC Chinese sage Laozi used in his Tao Te Ching. For example, consider the lyrics for “II – Unum Immobile/Cuncta Moventur”:

One is Unmovable
All things are moving
One is Immutable
All things alterable

Others have more directly to do with Böhme’s cosmology, specifically in “V – Seven are One,” which concludes with Böhme’s most oft-repeated line:

This one is capable 
both of this and of that
Choose and what thou
choosest shall be thine

There is no coming to 
the One with one jump
and none, without going about

It is finished when Seven are One

Much of the inspiration for this song seems to come from Böhme’s assigning of humoral-elemental qualities to the (at that time) seven planets in the solar system:

  • 1. Dry – Saturn – melancholy, power of death;
  • 2. Sweet – Jupiter – sanguine, gentle source of life;
  • 3. Bitter – Mars – choleric, destructive source of life;
  • 4. Fire – Sun/Moon – night/day; evil/good; sin/virtue; Moon, later = phlegmatic, watery;
  • 5. Love – Venus – love of life, spiritual rebirth;
  • 6. Sound – Mercury – keen spirit, illumination, expression;
  • 7. Corpus – Earth – totality of forces awaiting rebirth.

Böhme would eventually take those seven characteristics and, in his essay “On the Three Principles of Divine Being,” condense them into three, representing the Christian Trinity:

  • 1. The “dark world” of the Father (Qualities 1-2-3);
  • 2. The “light world” of the Holy Spirit (Qualities 5-6-7);
  • 3. “This world” of Satan and Christ (Quality 4).

(And yes – I took this from Wikipedia. But only after trying to track down more reputable sources via the academic databases I have access to by virtue of the fact that I teach college in the real world.)

As for the ‘One’? Near as I can tell, it represents a return to the same state of innocence that Adam and Eve had before they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And how does that happen? Fuck if I know. There’s a limit to how much late 16th/early 17th century Christian mysticism I’m willing to wade through for the sake of an album stream. Besides, I’ve probably rambled on the subject enough at this point and should get to discussing the music…

If you checked out our premiere of “I – Perpetuum Mobile” and “VI – Abyssal Nothing,” then you already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the rest of Paradoxa Emblemata. The full record is ten tracks in thirteen minutes, so there is a definite ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ feel to the proceedings. I would definitely suggest not blinking, though, because there’s a lot happening in these brief songs. Punk collides with black metal, which gets dragged through the grindcore muck, and there even seems to be a touch of bestial South American influence thrown in as well. In other words, it’s fucking nasty – raw, bilious…basically the musical equivalent of Lingchi (aka Death by 1000 Cuts). And even if you could care less about the thematic elements, you’re still going to love the sonic violence Perpetuum Mobile serve up.

Paradoxa Emblemata will be available on Sept. 21 from Xenoglossy Productions (preorder here). Check out the whole thing below, as well as a few more examples of Freher’s illustrations.

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Ian Lovdahl September 21, 2018 at 10:25 am

This is utterly fascinating, awesome piece, Clayton. Sounds to me like Paradoxa Emblemata is somewhat more listenable than their complex counterparts, I suppose Jute Gyte comes to mind.

Clayton Michaels September 21, 2018 at 10:28 am

Thanks, Ian! It’s a killer little record with some truly fascinating rabbit holes one can fall into should one wish.


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