A fifth-century Egyptian scholar murdered for her involvement in a political dispute is the subject of the latest record by Nanaimo psychedelic rock duo Anunnaki.
In AD 415, Hypatia was a prominent pagan philosopher, mathematician and astronomer. She was also an advisor to Alexandria’s Roman governor Orestes, who was feuding with the city’s bishop Cyril. After rumours circulated that she was interfering in the dispute she was killed by a Christian mob.
More than 1600 years later, Anunnaki – bassist Dave Read of local band Moths and Locusts and drummer Arlen Thompson from Wolf Parade – pays tribute to Hypatia on their eighth record, Martyr of Alexandria.
“She’s one of these early philosophers who was eventually murdered for her beliefs and discoveries and insights on science at the time, which started to conflict with the more zealous religious people in the community,” Thompson said. “So I thought it was an interesting idea. We have these thematic aspects to our music, so I just wanted to weave a bit of a narrative into the song structure.”
On Oct. 8 Anunnaki unveils Martyr of Alexandria at a CD release show at the Queen’s, joined by Nanaimo band Behaviours and Victoria’s High Arctic. Thompson said it’s Anunnaki’s first “formal show” in a year and a half.
Martyr of Alexandria is made up of three instrumental pieces. The EP opens with Golden Gate of the Sun, which references an architectural feature of temples in which entrances would be built facing the sun. Thompson said the second song, Cyril the Fanatic, depicts the bishop as a “brooding menacing figure, this religious zealot who’s threatened by Hypatia’s knowledge because it’s upsetting the order.” The closing track, Cries of Hypatia, portrays the philosopher’s downfall.
Aside from drum and bass, Thompson and Read play an array of synthesizers on the EP and all the tracks are improvised and recorded live. Also heard on the EP is the voice of 20th century Canadian mystic Manly P. Hall, whom Thompson calls a “scholar of ancient knowledge” and an influence on the EP.
“Our songs are typically not like verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus. It’s more to develop the feeling in using certain themes and movements,” Read explained. “It’s more like a jazz type of way of thinking of things. There is improv in there, but it’s not totally made up. We know what we’re going to go in with and we know what we want to achieve.”
Martyr of Alexandria is available here.
WHAT’S ON … Anunnaki performs at the Queen’s, 34 Victoria Cres., on Oct. 8. Doors at 10 p.m., show starts at 10:45 p.m. Tickets $10 at the door before 11 p.m., $15 after 11 p.m.