The last time we reviewed a release by Kassel Jaeger, the artist had formed a piece based on the resonances of stones. This time out, he’s expanded his palette. While Rituel de la Mort de Soleil is a soundscape, the field recording aspects are more prevalent; one can barely detect any manipulation, although it’s safe to say that most forests don’t change this much in 42 minutes. In creating this piece, the artist recorded from sunset to deepest night, capturing sounds through a variety of techniques (“aerial, hydrophonic, contact, magnetic”), eventually forming a whole: a ritual of an imagined time following the death of the sun.
Without sunlight, many of these sounds would swiftly disappear: birds and brine shrimp, even the rustling of trees. But here they are captured in such a way as to restore their sense of mystery. In the dark, the unidentifiable sound becomes the threat. The benign becomes the foreboding. In the second movement (beginning at 5:00), a soft, semi-melodic series of notes begins to tumble and twirl like the last prayer of a tribe seeking to assuage the gods. The cracks and creaks increase as the forest reclaims its own. In the third (10:29), these sounds give way to the sound of a shovel (we’re only guessing) and a field of insects. Are the last people being buried? If so, what is one to make of the knocks and taps, slices and slaps that grow louder as the piece progresses? Are these the sound of a man working in isolation, or does something wicked this way come? Some might argue that as far as nature is concerned, the “something wicked” is us; in this case, humanity is receiving its just desserts. Unfortunately, nature is about to fold as well.
Silence falls in the 21st minute, only to be interrupted at 21:49 by crunches and growls. This is the sound of nature in revolt. The wilderness belongs to the wild. Something or someone is walking by the creak, voiceless and unafraid. Will humanity need to revert in order to survive? This is the sort of question implied by the album, although listeners will need to provide their own narratives. While the work falls within the boundaries of science fiction, à la The Hellstrom Chronicle, it presents a bleak future that most would prefer to avoid. If so, the album is a call to arms. (Richard Allen)