- A concept album of gorgeous electronica inspired by anime and the Kabbalah.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion is something of an ur-text for modern anime, a towering work whose merits are still debated today. With a syncretic palette of symbols and themes taken from Kabbalah, Shinto and Christianity, the series probes the very nature of humanity itself through an infamously complex narrative. The series, along with the similarly cerebral Ghost In The Shell anime, is the jumping-off point for Lara Rix-Martin's new solo album, Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter². The LP borrows the approach of its namesake, which Rix-Martin says helped them discover their Jewish identity when they were younger. Rix-Martin imagines the world in the year 5781 (incidentally, the Hebrew calendar year for 2021), when humans are trying to merge into a singular android consciousness called the Unit Kadmon, mirroring the way that consciousness is viewed in the Kabbalah, a mystical interpretation of Judaism. If that sounds like a lot to take in, it is, but Rix-Martin makes a captivating record that's worth spending some time with.
The style of Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter² veers from dance music to abstract beat sketches to beautiful pieces that veer into modern classical territory, like "Ein Sof." Roughly translated to "The Endless One," the idea of Ein Sof refers to God before any kind of consciousness was created—a pure source of energy that projects into infinity, before and after time. Rix-Martin's interpretation of this idea is all gentle strokes of melody and bold, illuminated textures, like an android orchestra.
Despite hints of a filmic approach (track names like "Title Sequence" and "End Credits," a snatch of dialogue in "Upload To Unit Kadmon"), Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter² is not a narrative record. Instead, it unfurls into an abstract array of images, prayers and sound art, not unlike the flurry of ideas and symbols of someone approaching Kabbalah, or Neon Genesis itself, might encounter at first glance. It's overwhelming, sometimes confusing and rarely less than spellbinding.
Rix-Martin's voice is the constant on this record, offering the only hints at story-telling aside from the track titles. Sometimes they're reciting passages from the foundational Kabbalah text, Zohar, or reading Bible verses, or saying prayers in the far peripheries of the stereo spectrum. As their voice veers in and out of tune with the rest of the music, it feels separate from everything else, a source of life amongst the machinery. The ghost in the shell, as it were.
There's one particular moment, on "Nefesh," one of the LP's most immersive and richly textured tracks, where the synth and vocals blur so that you can't really tell if it's Rix-Martin's voice or a choral pad. It's a sea change from everything else that came before, when their voice felt separate—a merging of the electronic and the organic as envisioned by Rix-Martin at the beginning of the album with "Upload To Unit Kadmon." This fusion directly references the Kabbalah's concept of Adam Kadmon, which was the world's first-ever life form—a divine light that eventually formed the collective soul of humanity, before humans themselves were formed, sometimes described as "pure potential."
As you can see from the few examples above, there are plenty of reference points to dive into on Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter². While it might seem dense and impenetrable on first listens, if you give Rix-Martin the patience and the time that the LP needs to unfold—and do some research—it can lead you to new viewpoints about the world. Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter² presents a worldview where the mind and consciousness is as vital as the body—it sounds futuristic, but dates back thousands of years.
Of course, you might also think that all this is pretentious, which is the record's biggest sticking point: it's a concept album that makes you do your homework. Thankfully, it's also a feat of sound design and production, taking the tropes of modern experimental club music and softening them into something celestial. Every surface is touched by an almost angelic glow, and the music feels futuristic without resorting to too many clichés, instead forming its own eerie universe of diaphanous sounds and voices.
Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter² concludes with the delicate piano melodies of "End Credits," a return to conventional musicality, that makes for a lovely, yet ambiguous, ending. Are these tones of sadness or resolution? Like the anime it was inspired by, Neon Genesis: Soul Into Matter², doesn't answer these questions so much as pose them endlessly, teasing you with symbols and fragments of information. It might make you ponder the nature of humanity, or you might just enjoy Rix-Martin's beautiful, translucent sounds, but either way it's an otherworldly, immersive listen.