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Urthona – The Elements’ Rage (A Clash of the Stars and Moon)

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Urthona - The Elements’ Rage (A Clash of the Stars and Moon)You know that feeling of ominous expectation, when a storm’s a-brewin’? What about the feeling of sparkling clarity, once the clouds have broke and vented their fury? This colossal slab, The Elements’ Rage, is like hunkering down in a megalithic stone circle as silver-dappled thunderheads of guitar, feedback, percussion and field recordings doth spew and fume.

It can take a lot for an instrumental, sound-collage theme record to stand out from the hordes of drone barbarians on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. For some of us heathen shamen, the words “38 minutes of sculpted feedback, instrumental ruminations and found sounds, based on a historical storm from 1703, endorsed by Julian Cope” is enough, and you’ll be stealing yr mother’s credit cards to dish up the niceties. For those with busy social planners, online obligations, a family life and fiscal responsibilities; what separates the grain from the millet?

First of all, you need to relax. Untether thyself from thy electronic leash and unleash that most precious of human components: the visionary imagination. Secondly, the field recordings and lavish packaging, a four-panel foldout sleeve with two inserts and meaningful quotes, goes a long way towards creating an immersive experience. Urthona‘s attention to detail, care and craft, clearly speaks for itself, inviting you into its sonic barrows, enticing you to explore aetheric hills and meadow.

This intersection of instrumental music and field recordings is something of which I am deeply interested in and want to see refined, amongst our artificers. For me, seeing as how I have no job other than typing about other people’s records, I like nothing better than to listen to random sonic detritus from all over the globe and across history. Tea pots, holocaust survivors, steam engines, Siberian wind, it doesn’t matter – I love to listen to the sounds and the way that they light up my imagination and inspire me. The same could be said for improvised instrumental music, whether it be free jazz or loose noise. There’s just so much of it, it can be difficult to parse through it all, and most people who are perhaps not dangerously obsessed will not hear the glory through the bedroom demo line noise.

But this alchemy of natural sounds and instrumental recordings is truly something MODERN, unleashing the potential dreamed up by the Futurists and musique concrète, and we’ll only see more of it as high quality digital recording equipment just gets cheaper and more accessible. So now the question remains: how to blend the two? With the sounds of pounding surf, babbling brooks, buffeting wind setting the scene, Urthona’s mighty guitars and blissful electronic drones (is it synth? guitar feedback?) become like features of the landscape. The guitars ripple like light through a sheet of clouds, or sunlight on the water. It suggests instrumental possibilities beyond the prison bars of Western tonality, a poetry of sound, just like Debussy or Erik Satie intended.

The Elements’ Rage is the airy counterpart to Earth or Sunn O)))‘s tectonic shift. Those in the know who have traditionally enjoyed The Dead C, Gate or the West Coast psych-outs of Barn Owl or Six Organs Of Admittance will be in Valhalla with this one. I am a lifelong, devoted anglophile, being the land of my forebears. Until I write enough experimental album reviews to get me across those azure waves, to explore the hills and crags myself, I thank the lucky star for flaneurs like Urthona, for bothering to capture the wind, for placing the thickets in their grooves. It’ll tide me over.

Very much recommended! A heady concoction.

-J Simpson-

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