Grit your teeth, press play and hang on. Sky Burial’s Kiehtan is a 41-minute plummet through thick, shifting clouds of drone, a hypnotic and inescapable ride through spaces that range from near-calm to industrially threatening. Michael Page starts the voyage on rising pads that emerge from a bramble of electronic noise, but soon enough the skies turn dark, a sense of uncertainty creeps in, and Kiehtan begins the first of its many metamorphoses. It’s those changes that really make Kiehtan stand out. Page constantly nudges his drones into new forms like a sculptor working clay on a wheel. Nothing too abrupt, just the slow introduction of some new element, like the pressure of one finger on the moving, wet clay, that re-sculpts the sound and the feeling into something different, a new space being opened and explored. Each new direction feels like it’s been birthed organically, growing to follow Page’s sense of logical progression. The piece is filled with sections where time gets lost in the black-hole density of the flow, points where you realize you’re responding physically to the music–usually with held breath or a tight jaw–and long stretches where you and your conscious mind just part ways for a while. (There’s a three-minute movement starting around the 22-minute mark where a sort of metallic percussion taps out a beat that just completely mesmerizes me. It gives way, perfectly, to one of Page’s quieter moments. Superb.)
Kiehtan finishes with a second, 6-minute track, “Himmelblau-starren,” that, while an interesting exercise using the source materials, comes away like more of a shrug after the potent experience of the main piece.
Kiehtan is a long-form piece that has had me hitting the “Repeat” button more than once. A standout work from Sky Burial.
Available from Lens Records.