Michael Page says that his new Sky Burial release, There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping, marks a return to shorter-form work and pulls in inspiration from shoe-gaze, krautrock, musique concrete and more. But while all the work here is solid, it’s the three long(er) tracks, each clocking in at about 10 minutes each, that land with the heaviest impact. On these, Page showcases the densely packed, frequently ominous sonic sculptures he’s known for. As always, the ride is expertly modulated. “Incantare,” which starts the disc and features contributions from dark chanteuse Jarboe and German duo Troum, opens with long, hypnotic drones. Percussion folds into the mix to bend the sound in an almost tribal-ambient direction. The last keening note from Jarboe fades into a moment of quiet–which is consequently shattered by the heavy dramatics of “Shedding the Husk.” Dirge-like and deadly serious, this piece thunders into the room, then spreads like a consuming shadow. In here is Page’s trademark sonic density, big drones flowing over each other. “Silence Moves” is the last of the long pieces, crafted with help from Anni Hogan (formerly with Marc Almond of Soft Cell fame) and sound artist Xiphoid Dementia; it rises up with an almost optimistic tone (comparatively), then turns slowly on its axis to become somber and deep. Piano layers in and soon finds itself fighting against dissonant chords that first swallow it whole then let it emerge unscathed. It makes for a great narrative. The shorter tracks are the ones that divert from the drone-based flow. Two, contributed by Danny Hyde of Coil, stand out immediately. Take the trippy “Carne[vale],” built on a tortured chipset-style sound to create something like a deranged and distorted 80s video game soundtrack. The jaunty sound of it carries Hyde’s nod to the Carnevale atmosphere, but it’s viewed through a skewed, jiggling lens. Toward the end, it breaks down in a jagged act of pure deconstruction. He reuses the chipset sound later in “Fools Circel9Wys,” pairing it against a processed vocal that comes out with a cool didgeridoo-like tone. This one pulses right along. “Beyond the Veldt” takes an interesting turn, with dream-state vocals from Bridget Wishart of Hawkwind (also a repeat Sky Burial collaborator) working over a hazy shoe-gaze beat. The title track represents the musique concrete portion of the evening, bringing a clash of bagpipes and the squeal and clatter of (what sounds like) trains to wrestle for dominance.
There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping is an impressive bit of work, and not just for the number and pedigree of the guest artists. Page has obviously developed a strong name in the dark/noise/experimental side of things and has a solid force of artists at his command. This disc nicely shows what good can come of that. Have a listen.
Available from Small Doses.