Track By Tracks: Tegmentum - Evolvement (2023)

Firstly, I want to state how grateful I am that the gang (band) has trusted me with the artistic vision for our record, “Evolvement,” and I hope to build upon this world I’ve created as a group going forward!

My art/music tends to be very meta, and it draws upon different influences/inspirations that I strive to make cohesive and unique. This album is no exception; I pull inspiration from different media and musical genres in service of the story I’m trying to tell.

As far as the high-concept sci-fi/cosmic horror plot is concerned: Evolvement continues with a story I had in mind when writing my post-grad/instrumental record I released under Tegmentum called, “Passage.” As part of an exploratory mission, our main character travels to and from another dimension where their expedition goes horribly wrong. Faced with horrors beyond reckoning or understanding, they are confronted with the worst parts of themselves that are manifested by a malignant, parasitic entity. As they manage to escape back to their reality, they believe that the entity they encountered was left behind… only to discover that it has in fact traveled with them.

As you might imagine, this high-concept story reflects a personal struggle I went through at the time I wrote this album. I was without any kind of opportunities, skills, or connections I believed I needed to create a life for myself, and a crisis was born from that. It was a bleak part of my life that plunged me into a deep depression. By way of determination and a firm commitment to my health, I did get better. I wasn’t without my scars at the end of it, but I was able to change my circumstances enough to be able to get out into the real world and thrive.

The moral of “Passage” is an acknowledgment of what I learned during my struggles: the work you put into bettering yourself and escaping your circumstances does not end with any single labor or decision. It behooves me to embrace my shadow and choose wellness while on my path to self-improvement. To understand that in some shape or form my shadow will always be a part of me.
“Evolvement,” is about when that lesson was forgotten. A time when I wanted to believe the worst was behind me. I focused my efforts on pursuing a new life, unaware that my anxiety/depression was in fact informing most of my decisions.

If there is one way to best preface "Evolvement," it would be this:

This album is a musical representation of what it feels like to have a manic episode. How I feel a manic episode usually starts and ends the same way. I end with this deep depression and pain, plunging me back into isolation. And after being there for a little while processing how I feel, there is this sweet muse again drawing me back out. And without knowing it the cycle begins again. It is possible to listen to this album on a loop for that reason.

It's a vicious cycle, and you don’t get a trophy or a pat on the back for recovering from a depressive episode. There is just this moment of relief for having recovered, only to be replaced with the fear of it happening again.

1. Innocuous:

"Innocuous" serves as an effective overture for the record. It communicates what the experience of the album will be in a few minutes, namely how it goes from light to dark.

It means to draw you in with a simple and sweet melody. Lots of beautiful textures are present throughout the track, with a consistent 8-string guitar line holding the piece together. The performances by Yvette Young on violin and Jerry Liu on cello really make this track shine, adding an organic element that grounds some of the more atmospheric textures.

This sonorous lullaby hypnotically carries on, slowing its cadence like it means to resolve itself. It’s only when it seemingly reaches its crescendo that the song’s innocuous mask slips a little, revealing something more discordant at its core.

This brief dissonance lingers for what I hope to be an uncomfortable amount of time, making you wonder about its significance. This discordant section is not emphasized enough to worry about its implications, but present enough to taint the mood that was established by the melodic section before.

As this section dies down, the dissonance is hastily interrupted by a full-bodied suspended chord. This change in mood is meant to communicate a kind of dismissal of the concerning discordancy. The significance of this shift is meant to set a precedent for how the dark musical elements are treated: largely dismissed, and with each track given more and more real estate.

2. Moments Ago:

"Moments Ago" is just pure feel-good lyrically/musically. It means to jumpstart the album experience with an overwhelmingly positive bang. Our main character speaks from the perspective of bliss, shedding the weight of emotional trauma and carrying forward with the belief that the worst is behind them.

The little bit of negativity that shows up by way of the breakdown is almost like an intrusive thought that disrupts the main character's thinking. Some kind of trigger; a brief reminder of the pain they endured that temporarily hijacks their train of thought. It is quickly dismissed as the music returns to its positive theme, not being registered as a red flag by our main character. It is not clear to our main character yet the significance of this sudden negativity and how it represents an underlying issue that only gets worse the longer they ignore it.

This is much like how I have experienced dismissing cognitive distortions in my day to day. I might mask, emotionally suppress, or dismiss my intrusive thoughts to get through my day and function. Though this works in the short term, I’m not actually addressing the core issue that is causing my intrusive thoughts to begin with.

3. Accolades:

"Accolades" is the first track where our main character speaks with clear intention; they managed to successfully remove this entity from their body and effectively seal it inside of a containment unit where it can be inspected. I imagine a scenario in which they have acquired some kind of financial backing from certain agencies, interested parties, investors, etc. Our main character speaks from a place of arrogance, believing that they have not only conquered their "demons", but have created opportunity for themselves by using this trapped entity for their own means (I picture my main character as a kind of scientist who believes there is some scientific use for keeping this entity contained).

The main character is not yet aware of the psychic bond this entity still shares with them, or how it is influencing their perception/decisions. The entity blurs the lines of their manipulation by emboldening our main character's confidence, all for the purpose of pushing them to create a new means for the entity to exist in their reality. Our main character is aware of the discomfort they feel because of this bond, but dismiss it as invalid because of how much it distracts them from their goals of experimentation on the entity.

Reflecting on the time that I wrote this: I had all of this momentum in my life (newly acquired independence, finding love with my now wife, my college degree, my artistic endeavors going well), and I didn't want to believe that my past traumas were relevant to my circumstances anymore. Whenever intrusive thoughts or cognitive distortions would occur, I would get frustrated and ignore those thoughts/emotionally suppress them. It was hard to see the deeper implications of my behavior while experiencing it, and it wasn't until I was in a bad place emotionally did I come to understand how destructive this behavior is. As much as I tried to ignore my underlying issues, they would only get stronger and take up more mental real estate the longer I did.

4. Amygdala:

Where "Accolades" indulges in the euphoria of mania, "Amygdala" is about the moment when that manic high ends. The rose-colored shades come off, and our main character is faced with the cold reality of their decisions. Despite the absolute certainty, they believed they had in pursuing their ambitions, they come to realize that there are several aspects of their experiment that they don't actually understand. Their lapses in judgment become frighteningly apparent to them, and they discover elements of their experiment that they wouldn't have acted on with a sound mind. At this point, it is too late to back out, as crucial elements of the project have been set into motion. Their uncertainty overwhelms them with immense terror. They fear they may be doomed.

In the context of my own life, it's extremely frightening to believe that I can't actually depend on my perception. These emotional swings make life very difficult for me, as I lack consistency in my decisions, my plans, and my follow-through. I may believe that I am acting on my truth during a moment of mania, but in reality I am just letting my anxiety take the wheel. I give into that anxiety simply to relieve myself of the discomfort I feel, which ultimately can cause a lot of damage socially. I can't tell you how many times I've experienced this disturbing moment of clarity.

5. Emergent Properties:

Musically this track is very important because it functions as a bridge between the light and dark halves of the album. There isn’t much in the way lyrically, only one line (“It starts to breathe”) to signify the dark, aggressive underbelly of the record being exposed.

6. Genetic Assimilation:

I wrote this track from the perspective of an innocent bystander. Someone who has no understanding of this entity or the project. Like maybe they’re an office assistant at this research facility. Whatever their role, they just work there. A true victim in every sense. They’re just in the wrong place when this entity reveals its true nature and wreaks havoc.

The language is very straightforward, as the character we’re listening to is only describing what they are immediately seeing, hearing, and feeling. The entity is aggressively taking over the facility in which it's been housed, repurposing whatever genetic material is around it to realize itself physically.

There is also a psychological component to the entity’s takeover that’s inspired by Dead Space. A majority of people within a certain distance of the entity fall into violent psychosis, inducing pandemonium among large crowds of people. This happens for the purpose of creating new biological material with which the entity can continue building itself.

The victim we've been following gives in to the entity's psychological persuasion. They are at this point mortally wounded, and the entity offers to relieve them of their suffering. All they have to do is surrender themselves completely. With no other options and with their life waning, the victim lets go and allows themselves to be consumed by the entity. By the end of the song, the voice of the victim has become one with the monster. Another body and mind with which our creature has assimilated to realize itself in the absence of its original host.
This song is just metal as f**k, enough said.

7. I Remain:

"I Remain" gives voice to some of the more destructive and limiting beliefs I struggle to quiet from day to day. Every way in which my depression berates, shames, gaslights, and burdens my heart with emotional weight, I use those intrusive thoughts to create the voice of this malevolent entity that exists in the story I’m telling with Evolvement. In that way, these intrusive thoughts can live somewhere outside of myself where I can inspect them and process them in a safe, controlled way.

Story-wise, our entity has fully revealed their malicious intent towards our main character. Because they were removed from our main character’s body and mind, this parasitic entity was forced to realize itself by hijacking other people's bodies, endlessly consuming its environment so that it may survive. The entity hates our main character for this reason, and sees themselves as a victim. The blame is shifted by the monster onto our main character, for the entity simply did what was in its nature: attach itself to a host and survive. The entity did not ask to be brought into this world, and it has now devastated its environment and the people in it because our main character made it so. The dark imagery, the violence, and the hateful language are meant to torment our main character, and ultimately to spite them.

Referencing my personal experience: When I reached my breaking point, I came to terms with my depression when I had already done a lot of damage to my emotional health. I only realized that avoiding my emotional challenges was a mistake when it was too late, and I had found myself in the throes of another depressive episode. The subject matter of this track is very heavy, so it is my hope that the lyrical content can validate anyone else who may struggle with similar emotional challenges.

8. Gospel of Sand:

Our main character, now completely confronted with the consequences of their impulsive decisions, is attempting to run away. The imagery described here depicts a devastated landscape, symbolic of our main character’s failure of themselves and their world. Overwhelmed by grief and traumatized by seeing their world fall apart, they try to escape it by seeking safety/refuge from the terrors that surround them. They abandon their world like a coward and leave it to die. We follow the main character through myriad horrors: landscapes lit ablaze, and the tormented victims that suffer all around them. It's all their fault, and they run to avoid taking accountability. Having reached the safety of a bunker inside of their facility, they resign themselves to isolation underground to save their own skin while the rest of the world burns.

One of the hardest aspects of my depressive cycles is this tendency for me to lose friendships. When I'm feeling well, I make the effort to reach out to people, make friendships, etc. It makes me very depressed to know that my threshold for maintaining relationships has been historically very low, like I am doomed to repeat the same cycle of pain and rejection over and over again. It often has been the final punctuation for my depressive episodes to lose relationships. It seems inescapable, and I have deep trauma because of it. It makes me believe I can't trust my perception/instincts, and that my loneliness is perpetual.

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