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A deeply sad elegy for a lost world of potential - 77%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 27th, 2016

Originally this one-track work, apparently spread over a 12" vinyl record (which has me scratching my head over whether the music was split over two sides or the B-side either repeats the A-side or is silent), was composed for a film of the same name made by Wrekmeister Harmonies man J R Robinson. He shot parts of the film in the more degraded parts of Detroit, the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park in California, forests in Tasmania and a rooftop in Long Island City, New York: these choices together with the title of both film and soundtrack may say something about Robinson's intentions behind the entire package.

For the music Robinson assembled a cast including Jeff Whitehead aka Wrest (of Leviathan fame), improv musician Fred Lomborg-Holm, noise electronics musician Mark Solotroff and two members of Nachtmystium. For all these musicians' backgrounds in black metal, improv, noise and other genres though, the actual recording comes out sounding rather like an ambient experimental drone doom metal work from Sunn0))) on a lighter though no lesser scale. On second thoughts though and having racked my mind for anything comparable done by Sunn0))) - and I admit I haven't heard everything Anderson and O'Malley have done - I can't recall the duo having created anything as deeply sad and perhaps nostalgic for a lost world of opportunities and potentials that will never be realised because we humans stupidly and thoughtlessly threw it all away. This recording has one thing that perhaps Sunn0))) recordings in the past lacked: it has a definite purpose, and that purpose a condemnation of our ignorance and arrogance in allowing or pushing Earth to the point where it's on the verge of breakdown or rebellion against us.

To a large extent the music is predictable: yes, it builds up slowly, comes to a breaking point and climax, and cools down to a coda that makes the track very self-contained. For the first 22 minutes the track grows slowly, adding instruments here and there, building up substance, mood and ambience. Depending on what people bring to their particular listening experience, this track may be meditative, dreamy, sad or filled with wonder or foreboding - I suspect no two people will come away with the same feeling about what they hear. When the transformation occurs, there's no doubt about what that brings: there's an overwhelming anguish, a feeling of an entire world being swept away and no-one being able to do anything about that. Slashing guitar drone and crashing percussion shatter comfortable complacencies and the edifice on which our perceptions of reality have been carefully constructed shatters into a thousand million tiny fragments that wash away. After the storm and chaos have passed, what remains is pitiful memories that will soon be forgotten in time.

This music manages to be epic without sounding pompous or self-indulgent. Perhaps it's a little bit too lean or long in both its development and denouement and certainly could stand some editing without its meaning being affected too much. Of course I need to see the whole film to find out how the music fits, and perhaps only then I would understand how and why the music is what it is. Even so, the soundtrack stands alone well and listeners might well prefer to watch their own movie accompaniment behind their eyelids.