Vertonen – “HACE / 26,250’/11 22.4’N 142 35.5’E” – [Misanthropic Agenda]
Vertonen’s (aka Blake Edwards) newest work is a wonderful, beautiful, chilling concept album of grand proportions.
First, the photos on the album cover: stunning. They are pics of the bathyscaphe Trieste and of K2.
Second, the music. These are both sound homages to descent and ascent, the effect on the human body and spirit, and early attempts to explore extreme locations.
“11…” is honoring/describing/revisiting/suggesting the descent into and ascent from the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench at 35,000 feet in the Trieste by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, the first humans to have descended to that depth. Vertonen, an electronic noise and sound artist/musician, takes this opportunity to create rhythmic electronic sounds, pulsating like water, sounding as if underwater. There is the imagined quiet hum of machinery and the silence/but not silence of the undulating ocean as the Trieste slowly descends down, down, down to the Earth’s greatest depth. It is hypnotic, beautiful and claustrophobic. Just imagining being inside that far under the water makes me begin a panic attack. I want the music to go on forever.
“HACE…” is a different type of descent. It is the emergency descent necessary to save a life when a mountain climber suffers from mountain sickness or HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema). At high altitudes, the body can build up fluid in the brain due to leaking blood vessels. This causes “headaches, vomiting , lethargy, unsteadiness, confusion, drowsiness and ultimately coma.” The initial treatment is descent from the height where HACE has been identified. Descent from the ascent. If not done, death is imminent. Vertonen/Edwards creates this sensation of descent while experiencing HACE with a throbbing heart-like pulse, as if hearing it in one’s head. It is ominous and frightening, but quiet. As the piece continues, sounds become more muddled and the pulse slows and fades. A more threatening feeling is created by the devices (as Edwards refers to them), but not loud and abrasive. More low, constant and oppressive. The ending is abrupt. Jarring. And quiet.