Jeremy Bible has done it again! Or rather, he recorded this album earlier than Human Savagery and released it later. Broken Ecologies is another ambitious project: 30 movements spanning seven tracks across four hours. Originally a 16.2 channel AV installation, this series is now available for home enjoyment. While the aerial video is not included, one may insert the film from the other project if one desires a similar, albeit unsynched experience. A “preface” to Human Savagery, this may set a record for longest preface in comparison to the main project.
The theme is again the environmental degradation that develops at the intersection of nature and technology. Bible has a keen ear and eye for balance, and seeks to provide an imaginary restoration through sound. Each of the seven extended pieces seems like a solo EP, with its own distinct flavor. One can imagine them as a boxed set, save for the fact that Bible avoids carbon footprints. And each piece includes at least one distinct shift to a deeper level.
In the opening piece, the first shift arrives eight and a half minutes in with the introduction of a dark stringed theme. The theme is in no hurry to develop; it has time, although not forever. One can hear a glacier melting as the notes unfold. But after twenty minutes, the track sounds completely different, guided by lapping waves and soft ambient notes. These field recordings more than simple ambience themselves, and are often the foreground sound. The waves continue into the second piece, but cede way to other sources before long. The closing minutes contrast surging notes with silence, a possible metaphor for speaking out. As the spaces seem to elongate, they produce a feeling of loss, acting as elegies for those broken ecologies.
Again the timbre stretches to the following piece. Again it recedes and is replaced, this time by organ and staccato strings. (Hello, Penderecki!) And then a wind: the wind of change? The wind of global winter? The impression is forlorn until 23:45, when birdsong intervenes. As long as birds sing, all is not yet lost. This leads to one of the album’s most dramatic movements, landing at the tail end of the 31st minute, tumbling into the playful bass of the fourth track, restricted to the opening minutes. In a 40-minute track, this leaves room for a jubilant 9-minute expression of bells. Is Bible attempting to remind us that nothing lasts, or that darkness often leads to light? Again: balance.
The album continues in this fashion, with contemplative sequences offset by segments of high drama. Radio signals and choirs occasionally intervene, growing particularly insistent in the sixth piece before being overtaken by nature once more: a fate that awaits all civilization should it continue on its current path. Should a remnant of humanity survive, it may have to reinvent music through percussion, as Bible does in the closing piece. The artificial voice suggests an A.I., left to its own devices, repeating old themes while attempting to find its own voice. A final drone fades like a half-life, leaving only the memory of reverberation. As to what ends, what reverberates and what is remembered, the answers are up to us. (Richard Allen)