Monday, 12 December 2011

Sky Burial – Aegri Somnia

Inside a heavy-duty cardboard outer sleeve adorned with beautifully intricate black-and-white rendered fractal artwork is a glossy insert; on one side an intriguingly moody pattern and on the other blackness with a single corner devoted to just enough detail: Sky Burial – Aegri Somnia, Movement 1: The Synaesthete's Lament, Movement II: Within and Without and some obligatory but scant background data. It's folded around a simple black inner envelope that opens to reveal an equally obliquely designed disc. It's sleek, luscious, impenetrable, and mysterious.

So is the music, made by Cape Cod resident Michael Page and with a guest appearance from Hawkwind's Nik Turner on saxophone. Sky Burial is Page's musical nom-de-plume, his outlet to explore ambient industrial sounds wherein he notes to citing "esoteric, literary, occult and mythological subject matter as a muse." If that sounds like it's going to result in, to produce, soundscapes that are intense and heavy in density and atmosphere then that's certainly what is achieved; there's a brooding background melange of experimental sounds through which Turner's idiosyncratic, individualistic free-jazz blowing emerges out from and embellishes.

As the packaging describes, it's a record that is divided into two movements; Movement I is forty minutes of that dense, industrial ambience – not heavy in an obvious way, you understand, but layered in a manner that suggests, well, not sound-upon-sound exactly but idea or notion upon itself. It's a musical exploration that the listener needs to shine light into, like a deep sea diver briefly illuminating the sun-starved depths and picking out all manner of strange sights that are there and then gone again.

Movement II is its counterpoint to some extent, clocking in at a "briefer" sixteen minutes and seeming to have time on its mind, full of repeating chimes and sequences but more delicate, pensive and intricate and, indeed to use that word again, more fractal than its more lengthy companion.

It's a release where the packaging and the music are in harmony in pointing together at the sum of the contents. From the packaging you can envisage and almost feel the sounds and from the music you'd envisage an accompanying housing that represents the dark pools at the heart of the compositions. It is, to be fair, quite a specialised orchestration, one that will appeal to a particular faction of readers here and certainly not to others, but I think those who would love it will recognise its fascinations from this review and seek it out.

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