Song Breakdown: Jinjer – Pit of Consciousness
One of the high points of my pandemic era has been finding out about the Ukrainian band Jinjer. Their professional history has a number of curious similarities to Pantera (both being four-person bands that went through about a decade of anonymity while shuffling around certain members before finally breaking out as they settled into a consistent line-up, both are fronted by a talented vocalist with a very unique style, both tend to have two members get most of the attention despite all four being extremely skilled with their instruments), though hopefully Jinjer’s story ends up happier. In any case, they’re a fantastic group with a wonderful sense of how to combine radically different sounds with immediate transitions in such a way that it seems like every song of theirs is at least two or three separate songs spliced together seamlessly.
On top of that, they have an artistry to their lyrics that is remarkable even without considering that none of them are native anglophones. One of my favorite songs of theirs is “Pit of Consciousness”, so I decided to go through the song (with lyrics per LyricFind, since I’m notorious for mishearing) and talk about how I interpret it.
Before I begin, I’m aware of their explanation that the song is about how they noticed changes in themselves as a result of the extensive touring they were doing, but since I’m a proponent of Death of the Author, I’ll try to avoid letting that knowledge influence me.
Since separating the lyrics from the music of the song itself would be disingenuous, I’ll be commenting on the song as a whole, but I won’t comment on the visuals of the music video because I’m assuming that was a later development to fit the song that was written rather than something they thought of during the process of creation. Time call-outs are provided in relation to the official music video (linked above).
The faint scratchy whine gives me an immediate sense of isolation or emptiness, like air currents in a cavern. The two staccato cuts make me think of eyes opening, perhaps once in a physical waking to consciousness and then again in a metaphorical focusing of awareness. The brief pause of silence after it all sets this bit off from the start of the full instrumentals in a way that makes me imagine the opening was a sort of tabula rasa state before the mental canvas is colored by thought.
Two repetitions of heavy but cleanly-structured sound, each again ending in a brief silence, though slightly shorter than the silence which preceded this segment. This makes me think of the mind trying to orient itself through internal monologue; “Where am I?”, “What am I doing?”, and so forth.
This is nearly a repetition of the previous segment except with the silence filled. It’s a subtle change, but I see it as the mind becoming more active as it transitions from merely reaching for awareness to the continuous thought processes of normal operation.
I keep on losing the keys
And now I'm passing on the wheel
We have a central figure here who sees themselves as being separate from both reality and insanity by default, which seems to echo the tabula rasa state I’d felt about the opening. It’s noteworthy that accessing reality is represented as requiring effort while insanity seems to provide less resistance; the central figure is aware something is wrong but can’t figure out what to do about it.
In a secluded corner
Waiting for my time to come,
Waiting for the bedlam
To be pacified.
Once again, there’s a sense of isolation and separation here. The central figure seems to be aware of their surroundings (because they notice the bedlam around them) but they feel helpless to do anything about it themselves (because they’re resigned to waiting for it to be pacified rather than taking direct action for themselves).
I am climbing hand over fist
And I scratch concrete.
Shine in the end My mistake
It's not there.
The air is terribly heavy here.
It settles inside
And I suffer burn after burn
This is the first major change in the instrumentals for this song. While the first part had segments of build-up followed by a sustained sound before resetting, there’s now a constant forward movement to go along with the central figure beginning to take action. They get a glimpse of some escape from their present condition (presumably an accessible path to reality), but upon striving to reach it, they realize it was just a mirage, at which point there’s also a descending feel to instrumentals. They realize that their search for reality is actually pushing them further towards insanity. The weight of this revelation is overwhelming, and the instrumentals descend again as they undergo an irrevocable change.
From the dark. Burn.
The self is morphed, as represented by yet another change in instrumentals, and the central figure identifies the dark as being the source of their madness.
In a pit of consciousness
Squeal is bleating
So I feel there was someone else
Eyes are changing colors.
A stranger knocks on my mind.
I became a foreigner
The instrumentals go back to the previous phase here, but the lyrics imply that perhaps they weren’t so much about representing action before as about representing pockets of reality amidst a mindscape of chaos. The central figure senses another persona manifesting in their mind and influencing their sense of self to the point where they begin to question which one is the real self. Again, I know the official explanation for this song, but this can apply just as well to severe depression, psychotic breaks, or schizoid drift (and possibly other mental conditions, but I can definitely see the connections to those three categories). The central figure is lost and consumed by their search for internal truth.
Once again, the self is morphing. Not only are they being changed by the separation from their old reality, but they’re having a second internal separation wherein they stop recognizing (or at least stop being able to merge with) their former self.
Stillness stuns. Wish I'd run
Creeped away to the light.
In my head someone else
For my soul.
Having been changed, the central figure feels a brief sense of peace before the fullness of what has happened dawns on them. They’ve lost who they once were, and the new persona has overtaken them so strongly that it’s now setting defenses against a return to that former self. The juxtaposition of “run” and “creeped away” here is powerful, not only because the instrumentals are adding emphasis behind pretty much every word, but also because it reflects the real mental state of knowing that you have to act to fix something about yourself while feeling helpless to actually achieve that change directly.
In the darkest place
What was once named consciousness
I'm a miniature,
I'm a sketch forfeiting outlines.
The new persona is in complete control now, and all sense of the former self has been lost to the point where it can’t even be recognized anymore. In a reversal from the earlier mention of “consciousness”, it’s now the heaviness of the instrumentals that implies what had once been a pocket of reality is now just an expanse of despair, waiting to be filled with more bedlam. The central figure also realizes that their previous conception of boundaries between the darkness and their consciousness was a mistake; the darkness is instead something that moves to replace the consciousnesses of former personae.
The heavy instrumentals change here, altering the evoked emotion from despair to hollowness. The central figure is slipping back into isolation, hoping for another call to action while lacking the capability to make it happen.
Irrelevant entity to sanity,
A hive for nonsense,
For multiple selves
Resonating, but never compromising.
While waiting in their renewed isolation, the central figure (re)gains an awareness that this isn’t the first time this has happened. What they’d considered as a previous self was actually just another persona lurking in the darkness around their consciousness for another chance to take over. The true self has been fractured in a way that can never be fit back together again.
The central figure stops fighting and accepts their current persona. They’re given a sense of purpose and reality, but it’s a fleeting thing serving only to bridge the gap until the next cycle of change.
Stillness stuns. Wish I'd run
Creeped away to the light.
In my head someone else
For my soul.
This seems like a repeat of the chorus, but it’s a superficial echo. Underneath, the central figure is aware of the futility of it all. They’re powerless to hold onto their current persona because it’s not their true self; that’s gone forever, and all they have left is an endless shuffle of others claiming to be themselves.
For my soul
[unlisted final line which I think is: Waiting for my mind to be pacified]
The central figure accepts the madness. They’re lost, they have no chance of returning to who they were, and they have no choice but to keep going through the cycle of isolation and transformation until they finally die. Any regret for what has happened or longing for what once was is pointless. All they can do is move on as who they are for that moment.
I’m certainly influenced by how much of this song speaks to my personal experiences, but I think it’s a very beautiful and powerful piece. If anyone reads this and comes to different conclusions about the meaning, feel free to get in touch, because that sounds like a fascinating conversation.