Sandtimer – Leave With Us
We started our label feature with Nirvana Port’s last album, so it only makes sense to end it with Nirvana Port’s first album! Leave With Us also happens to be Sandtimer’s first album, an artist whom1 most people know as the mastermind behind the polarizing Vaporwave Is Dead. Leave With Us shares basic stylistic similarities with Subaeris’ Trascendent God, which was also featured on Nirvana Port, and both have gorgeous digitally-rendered album artwork.
Leave With Us is a rather brutal concept album: it’s a cyberpunk interpretation of the events behind the final months of the Heaven’s Gate cult. The cult was founded and led by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, who believed that the Earth was to be imminently “recycled”2 and that the only chance to escape was to leave one’s earthly body behind. It was an obscure, little-known religion even within American New Age mysticism, with a total of several hundred follows joining and leaving over its twenty-year span. In the early/mid-90s, Applewhite released a series of videotapes and Internet messages that broadcasted his eschatological message and elaborated on his belief that the body and all of one’s possessions must be forsaken to reach the esoteric Next Level. Members of Heaven’s Gate dressed similarly to reduce differences and impart a feeling of oneness; some, including Applewhite, underwent surgical castration to reduce sexual desire, which he considered one of the most “earthly” instincts of mankind.
The most famous aspect of Heaven’s Gate – other than Applewhite’s disturbing initation videos – is the mass suicide of the cult’s thirty-nine members in 1997. Applewhite grew increasingly convinced of the Earth’s impending demise, and he saw the arrival of Comet Hale-Bopp (which has a period of approximately 2,500 years) as the arrival of a spaceship that would take up his and his followers’ souls from their rented mansion in California. Over a few days’ time, the group took barbituates and alcohol to die, and many self-asphyxiated by putting their heads into plastic bags. Hale-Bopp passed Earth, Californian sheriffs found the bodies as a result of an anonymous tip, and life as we know it continued.
It’s a story that begs the cyberpunk treatment. UFO esotericism with hints of Christian eschatology that was disseminated on the early Internet? Sounds perfect! Sandtimer pulls it off with aplomb: this is an excellent sonic rendition of an exceedingly weird event. The titles reference Heaven’s Gate and the extraterrestrial themes of Applewhite’s theology, and there are a few sonic hints in the first half at what’s really going on as the album evolves. Few tracks reach past the three-minute mark, but it’s a nod to Sandtimer’s impeccable production abilities that they can sound so amazingly full and expressive without sounding busy in a relatively short time-frame. For the most part, the album is ambient breakbeat and “-hop”, but there are also elements of UK garage, IDM,3 and then-burgeoning hardvapor.
Leave With Us may not seem all that dark in the beginning. “Key” is almost ecstatic: those pulsating electronics and spacey tones are actualizing, and “Snake” has a funky, vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding melody that’s rather fun. But holy shit just you wait until “Gate” begins. “Gate” samples the most famous of the Applewhite initiation tapes, which outlines his belief of Earth’s imminent demise and his urgency that the only chance to escape it is to “leave with us.” It’s fucking creepy on its own, but said creepiness is heightened tenfold by Sandtimer’s production that causes Applewhite’s voice to become garbled and to phase in-and-out as if someone is tampering with the broadcast. The two follow-up tracks – “Procession” and “Recycle” – follow the cult’s own procession to Hale-Bopp and the grisly fate of planet Earth, respectively. The first seven tracks of Leave With Us are a mind-bending but relatively pleasant trip through the deserts of California and the promises of heavenly bliss, but those last three take the album’s underlying, subtle darkness to the absolute forefront, as if to demonstrate the level of horror that Heaven’s Gate truly was in its final days.
Leave With Us is the crown jewel of Nirvana Port. It’s one of those albums that must be heard by any fan of modern electronic music, let alone cyberpunk and digital media. Highly recommended for its disturbing and sonically impressive take on a defining moment in the history of western New Age mysticism.
1. Enter – (1:06)
2. Desert – (2:42)
3. Snake – (3:19)
4. Key – (2:21)
5. Wormhole – (2:55)
6. Heaven – (1:11)
7. Alive – (2:58)
8. Gate – (2:31)
9. Procession – (3:32)
10. Recycle – (3:15)
1Bringing this word back, baby.
2… to quote Applewhite himself.
3Kind of like Autechre’s Incunabula, but faster and darker.