Usti Waya ~ From Dust, We Rise

coverFew albums deserve comparison to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but this one fits the bill.  From Dust, We Rise is an ambitious vision to which the artist commits his full attention.  Every component is massive, from the inspiration to the presentation to the sound.

All too often those who read ancient texts through sonic lenses miss their inherent power.  Yet Daniel’s prophecy of YHWH bringing life to the dead requires no subtlety; in fact, such a reading would be an insult to the text.  The prophecy involves the upheaval of kingdoms, the punishment of idolators and the salvation of a small, righteous remnant.  Usti Waya (primarily a project of Raleigh Booze, with various guests) respects the texts.  By refusing to shy from apocalyptic apprehension, he bolsters his recording with mystery and power.

At its thickest, the mix includes nine instruments (four played by Booze), including violin, banjo, clarinet and sax.  But the incantatory vocals of Scotty Krueger (Psalters), burst from the maelstrom to put it over the top.  One can imagine the prophet, wailing in the dust and wind, a swirling storm of prophecy caught in a whirlpool of woodwind and brass.  There’s nothing nice about prophecy when heard in its full context: blood and destruction precede salvation.  As prophets are filled with visions too incomprehensible to subdue, and are typically scorned, they also tend to be very, very angry.

The bulk of the album is instrumental, but huge.  The GY!BE comparisons come in handy when noting the eastern influences, the contrast between dark and light, the vast distance traveled between calm interlude and reverberant eruption.  The one-two punch of “Admat Aphar” and “Abiding Slumber” is alone worth the price of admission, as Stephen Landis’ seemingly possessed violin provides a thrilling counterpart to the chaos all around.  When the world finally cracks on “Teḥiyyat Ha-Metim”, and the dead break the bonds of earth, Booze’s drums crash and pound like shattered stone, mirroring the drumming of the opening track, and his final scream echoes like the ripping of a veil.

The album itself is offered as a limited edition clear lathe cut with art insert.  The very idea of a lathe cut is that it’s not made to last: the format is valuable yet finite.  By offering this release in a form of plastic that will eventually crumble, Usti Wada obliquely refers to the crumbling of kingdoms and crowns.  But even then, a remnant will remain.  When the last lathe cut has disintegrated, long after the last listener has died, the notes will continue to live in the ears of the eternal.  (Richard Allen)

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