Surya Kris Peters, The Hermit: Intricate Experiments

surya kris peters the hermit

To be withdrawn is the principal aspect of bring a hermit. One pictures the long white beard of someone living in a cave on a hillside, who has removed themself completely from society and would rather be alone. Introversion taken to its most extreme end. Hermits also traditionally have the assumption of some known wisdom. Think of Nietzsche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra. We believe the hermit knows something because, since they choose to eschew human contact, they must invariably spend all that time lost in deep thought. It’s an evocative title for Surya Kris Peters‘ first physically-pressed LP — that being The Hermit, on Electric Magic Records — and the cover of the album shows the figure from the tarot card of the same name, underscoring the notion of wisdom at work behind the pulling of one’s self out of the larger public sphere.

It’s easy to see or at least to read into why Surya Kris Peters — aka Christian Peters, also guitarist/vocalist/spearhead of the off-focus-but-not-entirely-defunct Samsara Blues Experiment — might pick the title. Surya Kris Peters has had a couple digital releases out over the last year, and Peters‘ prior solo-project, Soulitude, collected home recordings for the So Came Restless Night (review here) album in 2013, but still, one might understand The Hermit as a phase in a musical withdrawal into the self, Peters delving in its eight tracks/43 minutes deeply into the roots of his own influences, blending electronic and analog elements for rich, varied, almost-entirely instrumental soundscapes and mood pieces that, in some way, define who he is as an artist at this moment.

It can be a dark vision, as on the penultimate “Chandra Luna,” which starts out with a rare moment of whimsy before shifting into slow-rolling synth march, or on the contemplative grunge minimalist guitar work of the earlier, shorter “Winterbottom.” The lack of vocals across most of the board — something Peters also chose to keep out of 2015’s Status Flux digital-only long-player — adds as much to the evocative feel as it detracts. We aren’t told directly what the percussive start of opener “Eremitage” or its space-synth/sitar are expressing, so we put our own meaning behind it. In that way, The Hermit engages rather than repels, working against its title to bring the audience in, and that’s a thread that continues as the album progresses through “Ragamati”‘s East-meets-West krautrock blend, the melancholy drift of “Snow Feather” after “Winterbottom,” and so on.

surya kris peters

Peters seems to be worried less about tying these pieces together than making them complete individually, but The Hermit has a certain kind of flow all the same — one certainly assumes “Moonstruck Serenade” and “Chandra Luna” are related thematically, based on their titles and placement next to each other — and while some cuts are more built up, as is “Ragamati,” a song like “The Legend of Raja Shakuu” basically relies on synth with a background of effects wash for its nine-minute stretch, so the context is fluid depending on the song, and though he quite clearly knows what he’s doing, Peters keeps a sense of experimentalism underlying the material here, so that creative growth is a prevalent aspect of the album’s forward progression. Indeed, it might be the defining characteristic.

Some of the tradeoff there is that at times the experiments can feel more driven by the exploration than songwriting, leaving one to wonder as “Moonstruck Serenade” gives way to “Chandra Luna” what live drums might’ve brought to the proceedings alongside the percussion deep in the mix, or even another player to join in on the fun with the analog synth — how these pieces could continue to be built out. That’s not the mission of The Hermit, obviously, and it’s not as though this material hasn’t been worked over, I’d guess meticulously, in its layering and mix, just that by their very nature, they lead the listener into a creative sphere as well in terms of thinking of directions they could keep reaching further. “Chandra Luna” boasts the only vocals on the album, and they’re buried deep and echoing, chant-like, so not much of an anchor there, and closer “La Morriña” (“the nostalgia”) brings together suitably wistful guitar and underscores it with theremin-esque resonance, giving a sense of weirdness to what would seem to be otherwise unabashed emotionalism.

Maybe part of that undercutting is related to the process of making The Hermit so personal, a deflection of emotional seriousness with humor — one could write a thesis on the psychology of solo albums — but either way, it’s a last-minute moment of quirk to follow-up on the intro to “Chandra Luna” and show that Peters isn’t completely ingrained in the expression of darker sonic ideas. Being so self-contained, Surya Kris Peters as a project seems like the kind that could easily become prolific over the next several years — one might recall that Samsara Blues Experiment worked at a pretty good clip between records as well for a while there — but whatever happens going forward, as the first physical release, The Hermit represents Peters‘ creative breadth well and communicates far more to its audience than its antisocial title might indicate.

Surya Kris Peters, The Hermit (2016)

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