UNCONSCIOUS COGNITION IS THE PROCESSING OF A PERCEPTION by Virtual Forest
Genre: Tribal Ambient
Favorite Tracks: “River to Back Side”
The “mystic variation of Above the Tree”, Virtual Forest is the moniker of Marco Bernacchia, an Italian musician dedicated to “personal research on noises, folk and blues made by instruments”. Consistently toeing the line between psychedelic folk and electroacoustic with his various releases as Above the Tree (garnering the most recognition with CAVE_MAN, a 2014 collaboration with Drum Ensemble du Beat), with his Virtual Forest side project, Bernacchia focuses more firmly on crafting tribal ambient soundscapes designed to facilitate transcendental experiences. Released on Italian label Yerevan Tapes, UNCONSCIOUS COGNITION IS THE PROCESSING OF PERCEPTION proves itself much more accessible and welcoming than its title, turning in around twenty-five minutes of hypnotic, dreamy ambience that easily carries the listener away.
Designed to reference American Indian rituals carried out with the intention of implanting new states of consciousness into the participants, UNCONSCIOUS COGNITION IS THE PROCESSING OF PERCEPTION is made up of a mere two tracks. “River to Back Side” acts as “the initiation ritual”, and starts off with ephemeral sounds of nature, as a hypnotic, vaguely religious chant bubbles up from the ether. Soft washes of noise and a hypnagogic background synth join the proceedings, as a distinct lack of percussion keeps everything very subdued. Finally a bass drum mixed to compliment the lower register, and the faintest touch of cymbals add some structure to the mix as a long drone is added, turning the song towards the realm of the ominous. As the trance state builds and a bell sounding extremely similar to a Tibetan ringing bowl makes its contribution, a feverish, urgent hand-drum appears, capitalizing on the steadily-building tension. The hand-drum continues for the remainder of the track, forming the album’s highpoint when chants are added back in, creating an organic, palpable sense of humanity.
The follow-up track, “Spiritual Communications”, is designed to emulate “the awakening of the day after”. Much more pensive and brooding, a soft, pulsing drone is established, as sounds almost akin to DJ scratches add a rhythmic counterpoint. A heavily manipulated synth creeps in after several minutes with a sound that wouldn’t be out of place on a progressive electronic or vaporwave release. Liminal and esoteric, bizarre, pitch-shifted female vocals further the track’s creeping sense of unease. A bass drum slowly permeates the listener’s aural perception, eventually forcing its way to the forefront. A vaguely Oriental vocal chant surfaces before a manic keyboard solo encourages a heavier mix, ending the track on a highpoint as the rhythmic structure becomes more defined.
Much less “transcendent” than the heavy-handed theatrics of New Age, UNCONSCIOUS COGNITION IS THE PROCESSING OF A PERCEPTION is a pleasant foray into the lower tiers of higher consciousness. Subdued and mature, Bernacchia fosters a sense of psychedelia without indulging in stereotypical genre facets. However, as with many tribal ambient releases, he doesn’t quite manage to craft something with definitive staying power.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend