The Cold Spring label has been a leader in the field of dark ambience for over a quarter century now, enough to have spawned second generation listeners. While early adopters are still enjoying their Merzbow discs, late arrivals may claim the work of SOL as their solace. As Cold Meat Industry closed its doors last year, Cold Spring carries the torch through a frozen wasteland.
Where Suns Come to Die (an ironic title given the name of the artist) may be the bleakest album released this year. As such, it is not recommended to all readers, but is highly recommended to those who might need it: those who find comfort in the fact of other people’s misery, who subsist on scraps of cold commiseration. Make no mistake: this is a gorgeous release, but not everyone will appreciate this brand of beauty.
Where Suns Come to Die is an album of orchestrated samples and spoken word, the latter offered by Thomas Bøjden of Die Weisse Rose. Here are the opening words: “And there is no comfort on this bitter earth, no spiritual redemption, no undiscovered source of good will or moral; for the world is hollow, and the sky is empty. The gods of my youth are gone. The virtues, the hopes, all gone.” If anything, the album grows darker from there.
And yet, the music is the saving grace, creating a strange contrast that amplifies the sense of pathos. Many of these are century-old classical samples, but some are new: mediations on reed organ, horns and strings, all mulched to a gumless paste. SOL purports to score the disappointment of old age, but incorporates fond memories in the lyrics, and even a sense of gratitude, as the body grows decrepit and descends to the soil. Unspoken: the fact that music from a former generation is still cherished by the shrinking soul. “I see the icy hand of death,” intones Bøjden, “shimmering with grace, touched by beauty.” And all around, the orchestra offers the kindness of its company. “Hymn” is particularly moving, culminating in the repeated phrase, “don’t let this moment pass,” accompanied by the knowledge that every moment must pass, sinking into the seas of time.
By the end, the narrator grows bitter. The mood of “The Grinding Wheels of Time” is akin to that of The Swans’ “God Damn the Sun.” There seems no solace, no inner peace; and yet there is. Like it or not, recognize it or not, the narrator has found peace, in a smile, in a song, in memory. The closing minute attests to this peace, fighting against the words: a snatch of song, pure and unadorned, reflecting the joy that once was, and may yet be recovered, if only for a future generation.