Matt Bauder: clarinet, sax, electronics; Jeremiah Cymerman: clarinet, electronics; Peter Evans: trumpets; Nate Wooley: trumpet, amplifier
The liners of Sky Burial (nomen omen) quote “new heights of virtuosity and insanity”. Indeed the feelings experienced by this writer during reiterated spins of this incredibly intense disc ranged from consuming interior convulsions (a currently painful cohabitation with certain issues of daily reality is not extraneous to that) to buzzing-and-reeling ears and head, ultimately culminating in a cerebral hyperactivity of the third kind. Picture the brain of a madman, who initiates a hundred thoughts in twenty seconds, not managing to produce a consistent one. Another reflection, so to speak, found myself in the company of a wryly smiling terrorist telling me “listen to the absorbing noises emitted by the components of my bomb as I leave you shut into this little room adjacent to the place where it will detonate”. A sense of danger and resignation to something dreadful about to happen, no chance for us to do anything but savor the last instants prior to the kickoff of utter mayhem.
The record is opened and (nearly) closed by the same form of magnified hum, and is characterized by the continual boosting of diminutive items that otherwise would probably go unnoticed, see the clacking keys of the reeds turned into soil-crunching mega-steps of humongous crabs (no, ladies and gentlemen, I do not take drugs). The composer recommends the exercising of a pair of excellent headphones – earbuds and computer speakers are verboten – to grasp the complexness of the textural aggregate. By glancing at the human constituent, one instantly hypothesizes that definitions like “hellish burble”, “hopeless bellowing”, “strained fractions of partials” and “increasingly undetermined clusters” may be parts of the equation. However, rare moments of respite exist, such as the beginning of “Mount Meru”. But also in that circumstance those doses of relative quietude seem to correspond to someone emerging full of dust from the ruins of an earthquake, trying to find a way to safety without any certainty on the success of their attempt.
In case you missed bits, this movie is not for the faint of heart. “Rogyapa” starts as a prelude to the return to earth of Miles Davis under the guise of an evil spirit who happens to love drones, subsequently shifting to a splendid underworld of subsonic throbs remindful of Voice Crack and Günter Müller, enhanced by screeching pitches and echoing warbles. We envisage Bauder, Cymerman, Evans and Wooley being centrifuged in a thermonuclear washing machine before everything settles in a fading choir of far-flung sirens. “Skull Bowl” restarts from there then, over an arc of sixteen minutes, touches every possible point of attrition with harmoniousness while retaining the threatening aura that defines the record’s bulk. Heavy breathing in the nocturnal blackness of a forest, perhaps an empty-bellied canine specimen. Or even a murderer. And yet we feel like staying, and enjoy the panic.
If you’re wondering aloud on the future of electroacoustic music, stop complaining and look no further than this five-star release. Me, I’d use this stuff in lieu of a pathetic shrink forever and a day.