Sky Burial – ‘There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping’ [Review]

Michael Page has settled his accounts into the ultimate institution of Sky Burial.  A very different sound from the power electronics of Fire in the Head, one of Page’s former projects (alongside Irukandji) which made its post-mortem appearance HERE a year ago, it is at times hard to believe the sensibilities of each could belong to the same individual.  Having consolidated his resources, the last year of Sky Burial releases has entered a new strata of recording through outfits like Crucial Blast, Utech, and now, Small Doses.  What I see as in spite of the album title (‘There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping’), the project title comes to life not just under a name, but in name: a practice of groups in elevated areas where the ground is stiff and kindling is scarce, the sky burial involves the restraint of a corpse in a clearing where scavenging birds may cart the body away in shreds.  Moving beyond the puerile reaction that this interment is “so metal,” Page begins interpretation of the event through two native lenses, translating this structural watercourse through drones and polyrhythms, glitches and synthetic horns.  Because the charm of the album is its processual reconstruction, my only complaint is the misfit of the track order, and by extension, the internal editing of the first four tracks (three of which surpass ten minutes).  I feel the real convocation starts on track two, with the stark and sudden blasts recalling the post-modernism of Arvo Pärt and Peter Greenaway: reentering the atmosphere of the “outside” – the hill, the clearing, the threshold – the dry altitude crackles with static, engulfing the human sounds with the surge of all things.  The turn of coarseness which follows in the final minutes, a stomping, whipping rhythm of abuse, feigns an early pessimism which really needs to end the piece (say as a 3”CDr), or recut toward the end of this recursive hour of music.  “Silence Moves” follows a similar triptych structure, moving through sober film-tracking and concrete grounding in a domestic mode, and into a late modern nocturne like some segue from Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Fragile.’  Wedged between the two is the counter-intuitive codecs “Carne(val)” and “Beyond the Veldt”: the first is playful jubilance of all surface – tactile electronics in a diminutive, comic, ecstatic farewell to the flesh; the latter is a slightly electrified Julee Cruise – cresting dream pop and ironic exposition like lyrics on a t-shirt – with Page playing David Lynch to the chanteuse Bridget Wishart (most tracks feature some sort of collaboration, an area Page clearly excels in).  Break yourself once again with “Fools Circel 9wys”, where Page resembles the spring-heeled Nickelodeon of recent James Ferraro, integrating a sonic excess with the greatest skill of the disc, but sacrificing the meditation of theme in the process.  Coupled with the coda of track two and swatches of the closing title-track, I take “Bone to Beak (The Vulture Speaks)” to be the true finale, quoting the concrete burial practices of many known worlds through dragging, clanging, ratcheting, and the polyphonic mourning of throats and valves.  Coil-like, the welter melts, digested, into a final void of purple-grey drones, back to the plane, the veldt, the clearing where we’ve been tied the whole time.  CD comes in an arigato pak with inserts and small poster, edition of 500 copies.

Small Doses CD

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