miércoles, 4 de abril de 2012

Black Swan - Aeterna


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Genre: Dark Ambient, Drone
Label: Swan Plague



The first release was lovely and short, a primer in many ways. The follow-up was noisier, still relatively brief and melodic, but impeccable in theme. And now Aeterna, Black Swan’s third full album, is nothing short of an abyss. Exhausting, bombastic, unmapped, and, yes, as black as pitch. 

Most listeners will find it difficult to get past a composition so dominated by noise. Even those of us accustomed to it may be left cold by the borrowed pulse (some musicians refer to the accidental percussion born out of trimming and repeating samples as “events,” which is a good way to put it). This way press is fairly hard to come by, but those reviewers who have taken the plunge are well-rewarded. All of this is to say that, paradoxically, the entire Black Swan discography receives universal praise. In a 10-out-of-10 appraisal of the debut LP In 8 Movements, Foxy Digitalis reports, “the Swan isn’t afraid to make real musical decisions.” The Silent Ballet review, concluded, “neither positive or negative, and unequivocally gorgeous.” Message boards and comment threads indicate nothing short of delight for the EUS remix and the one-track collaboration with 36. But it was The Quiet Divide that marked the first of now two masterpieces: a symmetrical narrative, an intellectual trek, and a true thing of beauty. Instead of a Rorschach-in-Technicolor, this cover art was a road map, marking the path as euphony gave way to dissolution, and then to static, the quiet divide. The story pressed on through recovery, and back to euphony again. The final measures repeated the first. Nothing was changed, save for the passing of time, and some exceptional music. Futility and beauty.

(And for any listeners who believed eight minutes was too much time to dedicate to white noise, look at the album cover again. We submit that the noise was in fact red in color, and a plot twist. Both are key distinctions.)

For Aeterna, Black Swan has abandoned narrative for aphorism, and chaos for uncertainty. This is clearly the work of the same artist. The slow and vaporous sound for which he is known is still the order, manipulations of operatic and orchestral sources as well as the currents of noise all pigment the synthesizer tissue and hidden guitar, as before. As always, the touches of sadness, madness, and the interplay between the two. The occasional flash of Eno’s celestial-event thumbprint and incalculable time signatures. The compositions are allowed to sing, literally and otherwise, and the pinpoints of light are not disorienting, even if they are trying to be. The finest example of this is “Dying God (Suite),” which concludes the album with a moving five-minute space opera, sampling some old choral work stretched to anonymity and filtered almost down to its proteins.

But as is common with the ever-patient Black Swan, we’re getting ahead of him.

Aeterna begins with “A Lesson In Slow Flight,” named online by a fan of the artist and seamlessly blended into the ethics and aesthetics of the album, just like all of the composer’s other sources. The humming construction and neutered samples – thunder? old sci-fi films? a body shop? – might not turn any heads, but the slow-burning optimism is a notable departure. “Lamentine” is a short and disturbing piece, looping a 3AM piano lick and a swish of static across an otherwise bare canvas. It’s an interesting neologism, the joining of lament and Clementine. Merciful regret, maybe?
Review from Fluid Radio