Post Mortal was inspired as a father watched his children grow and realized that he would probably die long before them. Yet Eric McLean (The Broken Cradle) insists that the album is not “melancholic.” We beg to differ, though there’s nothing wrong with a little well-placed melancholy. In the face of suffering, Ecclesiastes wrote that “everything is useless,” then contradicted himself by adding that we should enjoy life more because it is finite. This philosophy is also common in Japanese philosophy, especially the Buddhist beliefs from which McLean draws.
So yes, the album begins with a “Eulogy,” but it seems not to be for an actual person, or an imagined eulogy for the composer himself. Instead, it’s a eulogy for a mindset: holding on to the physical world, insisting that this is all there is. The album proceeds through “Awakening” and finally “Transmigration,” concluding on a note of hope, while “Bardo” refers to an intermediate state.
The tracks are tranquil, often visited by faint field recordings, as if memories from another life or visions from a life to come. Holy bells decorate “Interregnum I,” the word referring to a “pause in continuity.” The soul stops to consider its own existence. Such soothing sounds ~ like a narcotic Sigur Rós ~ come across like a lullaby, a father looking down at a cradle or children looking down at a hospital bed. Something ineffable is at work; time collapses inward like a white dwarf star.
In context, the phrase Post Mortal may even sound encouraging. It’s hard to make peace with one’s mortality at any juncture, much less prior to middle age, but children can be delicate muses. As The Broken Cradle ~ the moniker itself a metaphor ~ McLean sends questions to the universe while dedicating the album to his children, who may take a while to appreciate it, because let’s be honest, how many children and teens love ambient music? Even fewer ponder the Big Questions, content with easy answers. Yes, Kitty now lives on the moon, which is made out of cheese, which comes from milk, so there’s plenty of milk up there, and the cheese attracts mice so she has plenty to chase.
“Point of Destruction” is the most drone-like track, followed directly by “Point of Creation,” lying directly in the center of the set. The implication: something must die for something to be born. The lesson lies all throughout nature, yet humanity seems to resist it. The drone comes across as white noise or static, drowning out reason, serenity, other perspectives. In “Point of Creation,” a molasses melody is restored. By “Bardo I,” the notes and creaks of a tightly-miked piano become the central sounds; by “Bardo II,” the tone has turned triumphant. Yes, McLean will die someday, hopefully not today, hopefully not soon, but when he does, life itself will go on. In the interim lies the great Now. (Richard Allen)