Tuesday, July 7, 2009
ALTAR EAGLE / Pillars of Heaven / Caligine / High Wolf - Essential Elements (Stunned Records 2XCS)
Seeing as its taken me nigh forever to finish up this recent Stunned batch, I suppose it's fitting that, at last, I close it off with this MASSIVE double whammy of spaced out jammies. Call it the carrot, though I'm not sure anyone else has been drooling in eager anticipation of the juicy words I've chosen to accompany this piece other than me, and then only because I write em and that's an enjoyable activity in itself. Regardless, this release is a monster presenting four sides, four bands, and four unique zones. Where to start? How bout the beginning...
The first side belongs to Brad and Eden Rose (of Digitalis fame) and their brand new ALTAR EAGLE project, presenting here a single piece called "Pennies Masquerading as Dimes." Having dropped the Corsican Paintbrush model after that last Housecraft tape, they've continued moving on into new realms, and this project seems to represent a kind of space age song thing whereby glitched and fuzzed noise is met with mountainous synth drones and Eden's transient vocal sways. Whole worlds of sound evolve here, but there's a forward momentum driven by discreet chord progressions that keeps it all feeling much more like they're jamming on a pre-conceived riff than letting it all hang out. Static, feedback, Mario mushroom sounds, all intertwine, babbling about like some crazed set of street talkers below the voluminous weight of the gray city, looming overhead in the form of synth lines representing the good Word itself. Guitar lines shine through, rays of light, and everyone looks up shielding their eyes as the buildings around them crumble, turned inward by the encroaching vines. And all bred from the harmonic resonance of creation spewed by Eden's long and narrow billows of air. Don't look too long though, or the yellow rays will turn orange and the pupils will widen out past the eye ball, past the head, and finally past the toes till all that's left is a big black hole, a receptacle of light.
Flipping it over presents a far tamer world in the form of Sal Giorgi's Pillars of Heaven project, here presenting "The Singing of Makalaure." Giorgi runs the always impressive Peasant Magik label, whose attention to detail carries over into this solo project as well. Softly emerging primordial ooze leaks out from slovenly synth lines in a far more Godless, organic take on the birth of time than the former act presented. Here the silt is allowed to wash up against the shells, grinding gently and shaping, carving the dunes into stables for seaweed to lay, drying in the sun. Millenia pass and the seaweed survives, morphing its shape into low lying moss on which dragonflies rest. This is a quiet, almost precious location, concerned little with the skies and far more with the matter at hand--and we're not talking "concerns" matter, but matter matter, atoms and electrons and quarks and their quiet buzzing, doing all that they know to do and keeping the very world in rotation as they perform their mindless interactions. Eventually the bustling subsides, frozen and preserved in thick sheets of glass, shielded for a time from the grip of decay.
And now, tape two, opening with Caligine's "Inspirare ed Espiare: Sarad / A Ciascun Silenzio, Un Volto." This Roman weaver runs the Monstres par Excès label, from whom I know nada, but this folk drift cajoles me into thinking that's not for the better. Distant hums and guitar fluttering open it up, like curtains into some scenic field nestled inconspicuously between a grove of trees. Not rolling and vast but an enclave of butterflies and bees folk tales long since lost. The fumbling guitar strings speak of ships and ruffled shirts and perhaps even the single leaves adorning the bosom of some prehistoric teen rife with wanderlust. The entrance of electric guitar, sloshing about atop the distant ramblings of the acoustic, brings up broader, more looming tales, lifting it into a human frenzy of disturbed calm and lunging, quixotic fumblings of the mind. A small chime calls calm again, only this time it is a bustling calm inhabited by the busy bustling of a people collecting, selecting, dissecting in the name of the generations. The future is of a more metallic nature though, and though the construct is the same, basic actions resembling those from before, the silvers and blacks are far more unclean, wreaking of exhaustion.
The fourth and final side is the followup to High Wolf's Not Not Fun debut, and here we see the inverse of Caligine's side. Rather High Wolf draws us into the future with "Digital Heaven;" this is a land post-exhaustion, where a mechanized trajectory guides the motives of previously sentient beings. Behind the battered doors there does remain a hint of past forms, lives lived in light, dinners cooked and garnished with a holiness found only in the menial path of the everyday, but much of that seems gone now. A lone beating guides shadowless forms as they lunge steadily onward toward a new kind of jungle, devoid of commotion, everything in line. Somewhere beyond the borders there is a hint of stagnation, icy waters laid on faces in the sun, and that's here too, but more as a buried, instinctual memory. Close the doors though, and the memories come whirling back, swirling inside and out as dreams of garlic and pears minced and winged flit about. The dream is always better than the reality and boundless dreams seep in to distill the labor in favor of the luxury of necessity. Boundless and breathtaking indeed.
Wow. Long winded and superfluous though that writeup may have been this is one hell of a collection, necessary for anyone remotely into this stuff. Killer way to spend an hour and a half and beautifully sequenced so it all ties together as a whole. One of the best of the year no doubt, each offering is total bread and butter material. 100 copies out there somewhere (not at Stunned, I fear...) but surely Tomentosa has a few for now. Lovingly packaged as well. Again, wow.