Yen Pox is the long-standing, long-distance collaboration between Steven Hall (working in Indiana under the name Veil of Secrecy) and Michael J.V. Hensley (of the Washington state-based solo project Blood Box). Between the Horizon and the Abyss is the first Yen Pox full-length album in 15 years since 2000’s New Dark Age, and the extended effort clearly shows in these eight potent ambient tracks. As the title suggests, the sounds on this record reach across vast distances and unfold on geological time scales. The first half of the album explores the physical features of a new world – the noxious atmosphere (T.1), the acidic oceans (T.2), the mutated wilderness (T.3), and the barren plains (T.4). The vocal work of Dark Muse (Ruby Smith), droning and radiant, casts a conscious presence over the otherwise hard, physical soundscape. The second half of the record transmits funeral rites echoing in a narcotic cathedral. The rituals are alien but the throbbing, bottomless nausea of grief feels universal.
John Krausbauer is a West Coast based solo artist; this is his first release for the Seattle based purveyor of fine experimental sounds, Debacle Records. This 30 minute piece focuses on a single note – a high-voltage horizon line that buzzes, radiates outward, and swallows you whole. Acoustic sounds join the central electronic tone, following in parallel: deep chants that ride on a slow breath, and, later, dissonant strings. Listen closely, put in the time, and feel the line as it projects to infinity. We are not in the grave yet.
Melek-tha is the French dark industrial project of Lord Evil and his Cyborg Drum Engine. On this 2003 release, we witness the destruction of the world from a distance (high atop Black Mountain?) in two phases. Phase 1 opens with the sounds of the global war machine churning – jagged, racing synths – as its dictates, in French, are issued over the loudspeakers (T.1). These are the sounds of the collapse: a toxic sonic fog settles in, drum beats appear and accelerate as tension builds (T. 2), a transmission arrives from a courtroom as a smiling murderer (Bundy) asserts his innocence, and the machine grinds to a halt, its fuel exhausted (T. 3). Phase 2 is a glimpse of the world post-apocalypse. A new machine, a driving beat, grows from the burnt rubble and twisted metal (T.4); it is clear what is coming will be even shittier. The new laws are delivered to us, this time in an alien language (T. 5), but we understand their meaning. This is a lateral shift to a new world order, based on dominance and submission (T. 6), same as the old order. Welcome to oblivion!!!
Sky Burial is the solo project of Michael Page, but on this 2012 album he is joined by an impressive group of musicians, including Jarboe of Swans, Danny Hyde of Coil, Bridget Wishard of Hawkwind, Troum, and Anni Hogan. Prior to this release, Sky Burial focused on the long-form ambient drone piece to explore themes related to the project’s title. These elements remain, but the guest artists bring new sounds, concepts, and instrumentation – including vocals for the first time – to the project, which Page fuses into a complete vision. “There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping” is rich with stunning moments. In “Incantare” (T. 1), Troum’s stirring electronic shadows are illuminated by Jarboe’s vocals. Hyde offers two excellent tracks: “Carne[val]” (T. 3), a ride on a pixelated merry-go-round, and “Fools Circel 9wys” (T. 6) a digeridoo jam. “Silence Moves” (T. 4) is an ambient track that coalesces around a gorgeous, lonely piano line. “Beyond the Veldt” (T. 5) is a shoegaze slow-burner that features Wishard’s vocals and evokes the innocent horror of Ray Bradbury’s prescient short story “The Veldt.” The album concludes with title track (T. 9), a bagpipe dirge amplified to staggering heights.
AUME (Scot Jenerik and Aleph Omega, the drummer from Chrome) create “immersive soundscapes.” Agere Urendum Mentis Epode is their first non-digital release. Upon opening the beautifully crafted record (only 555 of these were made), you find a note from the artists recommending that you listen “in a darkened room with headphones.” I took their advice and was rewarded with an exhilarating listening experience. But even in the light of day, these two tracks still hold their power.
Sides A and B each contain a 21-minute track, “Praeludium” and “Epilogus,” that share a similar structure. Both open with the sounds of the cosmic: imposing metal-on-metal booms, the ambient roar of deep space, electronic static that races in circles around and past you, the sound of a beam of light that swells into the foreground until it is blinding, white-hot. Then, the alien atmosphere shifts to something that sounds more human – in “Praeludium” it is percussion hit with the hands, in “Epilogus” it is strummed strings – interwoven with looped vocal-like sounds, melding into something like a chant. These familiar sounds subside and the space odyssey resumes. As the record concludes, the sounds grow more distant, leaving you adrift, alone, in the dark.
If you like what you hear, AUME will be at the 2016 NorCal Noisefest.
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