First, some disclosures: I am a fan of Jasper TX and I have traded my releases for some of his (though I bought this one from a local shop). No matter, because any bias I might have had was wiped away with this CD — as this is not the Jasper TX I expected and so I heard this with fresh ears. In a lot of ways this project has re-focused its outlook on music and how it is created. My best guess for this change is a dissatisfaction with the music industry (at least based on some of his recent blog postings). A sentiment I fully understand, I was (am?) part of the same system in which frustration is the rule of the day. Don’t get me wrong, being an appreciated musician (even if its only by 2 people) can be a reward upon itself but sometimes the persistent hammering of the music business can lead to ideas about attending law school.* I believe this hammering became a different kind of muse and helped produce an amazing work that deserves attention. You just can’t keep a good artist down.
Now for the music…
This is one of the best albums I have heard this year (the number one spot still belongs to Colin Stetson). Lets examine why** “Black Sun Transmissions” stands out and why I think it feels like a re-focus (a re-launch if your DC comics***):
- The cohesive quality of the album — its more of a suite than individual tracks. Maybe that was not the intention but the whole thing seems like one idea/feeling being focused through a prism (and a dirty one at that). All of which creates something that feels personal even though there is no direct communication (aka lyrical content) from the artist.
- The before mentioned dirty prism is another change — the artist isn’t afraid to get dirty or dive into murkiness. There isn’t a need for a pristine digital edge when hiss provides atmosphere and emotion. Sure, this is ambient and full of drones but its also feels earthy/grimy. Its a musical work made in the mud and muck of life. If anything, I am reminded of (so called) ambient black metal. Not in the sense of guitars and cookie monster vocals but in tone/approach.
- Additionally, what further elevates this from just another ambient CD is the detail and composition. Every crack, bell, snap or hiss is there for a reason. The sound is seemingly guided, sculpted and shaped at every instance.
- I know this sounds like a dark listen and in some ways it is one. However, I see it as the beauty that is found in the scorched earth or the wonder that is discovered when you dig in the dirt (both literally and figuratively).
- All of these elements have been on past releases but none of the previous albums have felt this intentional or with this level of detail (though some have come close). It is almost as if the project looked at itself and distilled its best qualities into another version of Jasper TX.
My advice? Buy immediately — Black Sun Transmissions is stunning and essential.
NOTE: I did not cover it but the term “Black Sun” has its own talking points. Anywhere from Aleister Crowley to Coil. Very curious…
*Lawyer Jokes are cheap. Then again, I can get away with it — my wife is a lawyer.
**I am going to try a new format for my review — less standard paragraph by paragraph approach and more spotlighting an idea/concept (and probably more of me breaking the fourth wall/footnotes)
***Sorry the geek in me could not resist mentioning one of worst comic book ideas since brand new day. I predict an epic fail for DC.