Atay Ilgun & Alper Yildirim ~ Aokigahara, The Black Sea of Trees

This is the first appearance on our site for Wounded Wolf Press, a small Turkish imprint that releases lovely handmade music wrapped in folded prints.  It’s also a perfect example of why our site exists.  If we had never founded this site, we would never have heard this album; if we had never heard this album, we would have missed one of the year’s best ambient releases; and if we had missed it, many others would have missed it too.  We consider ourselves fortunate.

Sure, the packaging has something to do with it; it’s not complex, but it’s pretty, and it was made with human hands, so the package feels like a gift.  And the music is sublime.  But the album’s chief selling point is that its sensitivity to a subject that many would be afraid to tackle, and that few could cover with such tender respect.

Aokigahara, the black sea of trees is a 35-kilometer forest at the foot of Mount Fuji, known for its desolate beauty, its sense of silence, and its suicides.  While suicide is not necessarily stigmatized in Japan, neither is it encouraged.  Suicide is sometimes seen as a form of protest, a dignified, self-controlled punishment, or a means of restoring honor. Yet it can also be an irreversible effort to regain self-control, a self-crumbling, a depressive exit.  In one year alone, 78 bodies were found in the forest; there’s no telling how many more might have chosen to end their lives, but reconsidered after reading the nearby signs.  Although the area is marked by savage beauty – icy caverns, dense woods – it remains a popular tourist destination.  Any wide-eyed wonder is undercut by haunted desolation, the ghosts swaying in the leaves, whispering curses, regrets, warnings, and perhaps murmurings of hope:  it doesn’t have to end this way.  You don’t have to become like us.

Atay Ilgun & Alper Yildirim capture the warring emotions of Aokigahara through nipped breezes and fluted cries, stretches of starkness, drones of anguished prayer.  The drenching sorrow of the recording honors the memory of the fallen, providing them with a dignity that may never have been afforded them elsewhere.  Slight crackles of static and restrained piano reflect the disjointed thoughts of the afflicted. One can hear the creaks of the wood, imagine the footfalls of spirits and empathize with their emptiness.  From a long, dark hymn (“IB”) to a study of shunned solitude (“IIB”), the album imagines what it is like to be deserted, weighing a final exit.  A sense of beauty offsets the oppression, in the same manner as the inanimate woods scream without sound, endure, endure.  Ultimately, the album is one of respectful reflection, sad but not disillusioning, a statement of artistry intimating that art itself may be a reason to go on.

The briefer bonus disc provides a sense of comfort through brighter timbres.  Thick, green, and lush, it serves as a reminder of the leaves that remain on the branches, even as the main disc honors the fallen foliage.  This extra material, led by the steadily-developing drone of “Reverend Viola Of The Woodland”, walks the listener out of the woods, intact and grateful, humbled by the continuance of life in the presence of death.  The middle track may howl, but it is the howl of a demon left behind.  The forest remains, and others will die there; but even more will enter and find a reason to live.  (Richard Allen)

Available here

3 comments

  1. Available here and thanks!
    http://www.woundedwolfpress.co.uk/aokigah

    Much light,
    Atay & Gozde

  2. Pingback: ACL 2012: The Year’s Best Album Covers « a closer listen

  3. Pingback: ACL 2012: Top Ten Ambient « a closer listen

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