The trajectory of Natural Snow Buildings continues to amaze me with each new album, as Mehdi and Solange seem to grow more and more inventive and skilled at composition every single time they surface. Mehdi's last solo effort, the drone-heavy Then Fell the Ashes... was one of favorite albums of 2011, but Bogyrealm Vessels is a completely different (but no less wonderful) animal: an enigmatic and weirdly beautiful song-based concept album involving a space invasion, schoolgirls, and giant plants.
One of the more endearing aspects of Natural Snow Buildings is immediately evident here: while this is musically a Mehdi Ameziane solo album, Solange Gularte's cover art is absolutely crucial. In fact, what little I can piece together about the album's concept is taken almost entirely from the accompanying art (though the evocative song titles help a bit too). I wholeheartedly appreciate how cryptic Bogyrealm Vessels narrative is left, as it is an intriguing challenge to try to figure what it all means. Also, I generally hate rock operas and concept albums, so I would probably have flung Bogyrealm across the room if Mehdi had done something as uncharacteristically ham-fisted as spelling everything out with clumsily expository lyrics. I am a huge fan of vague, unexplained menace though, so this approach works just fine for me.
Curiously, most of that sense of menace stems from the album's apparent narrative, as the actual music is much less heavy and dark than I historically expect from Twinsistermoon. Also, when Mehdi sings, the lyrics that I can make out would not seem disturbing at all if decontextualized from the art and song titles. That lighter touch works beautifully here, as Bogyrealm Vessels has the gently hallucinatory feel of a deeply strange, warm, and beautiful dream that seems fragile enough to dissipate at any moment. That perfect surreal reverie is threatened slightly by the brief, but relatively straightforward, acoustic balladry of "Bogyrealm" and a few other moments, but Mehdi is otherwise infallible in keeping me fully immersed in his alternately uneasy and blissful alternate world.
Roughly half of the album is still devoted to drone pieces, but they are uncharacteristically short and shimmering, acting mostly as pleasant interludes between the folkier "songs." The sole significant exception is the grindingly heavy "Interferences From Extincts," which favorably recalls some of Mehdi's more crushing work from the past. All of the drone pieces on Bogyrealm Vessels are quite good despite their brevity. That came as no surprise to me, as Mehdi has long ago proven himself to be a master of the form. However, I was caught off-guard by how much I loved some of the vocal pieces. While Mehdi's singing does not depart much from the eerie child-like dirges of past efforts, his lazily cascading and off-kilter guitar playing on pieces like "In Deep Waters" and "Prisms" is absolutely ideal for the album's dreamy, not-quite-there fantasia.
This is a very unusual effort within the Twinsistermoon oeuvre due to its lightness and relative insubstantiality, but I see both of those traits as definite assets. This is a great album, all the more so because Mehdi avoids both repeating his previous successes or plunging too deeply into the sadness that pervades some of his earlier work. As aforementioned, a few of the songs here do not quite sustain Bogyrealm Vessel's lysergic trance as well as they could have, but they are easily eclipsed and forgotten by the album's end. It is funny to think that an album this deeply weird can be considered "accessible," but it feels like it is...comparatively, anyway. While I personally prefer some of Mehdi's heavier, long-form drone pieces to any of the individual pieces here, this is a strong candidate for Twinsistermoon's finest complete work. At the very least, it is the most endlessly listenable.