Monday, 19 August 2019

Various Artists - Mysterium Lunae: A Requiem for the Invasion of the Moon

Album: Mysterium Lunae: A Requiem for the Invasion of the Moon
Artist: Various
Label: Aurora Borealis
Catalogue no: ABX079

     1.      Hawthonn – The Curse (PYAX JWA)
     2.      Burial Hex – O’ Crescent Shedding Queen!
     3.      Sutekh Hexem – Læk¬
     4.      Anji Cheung & English Heretic – Sancta
     5.      Moon Mourning Earth – Devour Us
     6.      Tenhornedbeast – How the Stars Wept for the Rape of the Moon

This concept album (for such it is) takes as its premise a new perspective on the first Moon landing fifty years ago – calling it an ‘invasion’ which, technically and stretching definitions a bit here, is correct in a way. After all, we were never invited to go to the Moon and, for the sake of argument let’s stretch things a little bit further still, do we really even ‘own’ the Earth-orbiting satellite in the first place? I’m playing around with semantics here, of course – it’s a fun little exercise in looking at a situation from a standpoint we might not have thought about before.

Anyway, I’m not here to argue about the right terminology that should be applied to this momentous historical event – instead I want to discuss the music. Let’s be honest, no one, not even the astronomers and scientists in the Apollo program really understood what the phrase ‘outer space’ meant in actuality – a vast emptiness, devoid of anything bar planets, stars, galaxies, and a host of other celestial objects, the distances between which are barely comprehendible. Opener Hawthonn, through the use of a sparse drone, a voice, and string-like passages, manages to convey the bottomless loneliness and feelings of insignificance that must have confronted those first pioneers. ‘Space’ takes on a whole new meaning out here. And then, with an increasing sense of awe and wonderment, the object of the exercise hoves into view, getting larger with every passing day.

Burial Hex’s ‘O’ Crescent Shedding Queen!’ begins in a billowing of dust, the dust of aeons which has rarely been disturbed in the totality of the Moon’s history. A voice fades in, echoes perhaps of all the myriad dreams of previous generations of Mankind as they gazed up wonderingly at the satellite in the night sky, fantasising about one day visiting it. Drones, free to vault and hang suspended in the weaker gravity, spring up out of the rock itself, pause tantalisingly for long moments, chase each other endlessly, catch the solar winds, and then fall back down as grains of powder. From the human perspective, these arid plains, as old as time itself seemingly, defy any familiar human connection and merely emphasise the very definition of alien. Towards the end of the track, that very alien nature becomes unsettling – the monotonic landscape, the lack of flora, the emptiness, the lack of sufficient gravity, and the unending blanket of night hanging above their heads, must have warped and distorted the astronauts’ perceptions.

The next in line to grapple with these conditions is Sutekh Hexen, whose ‘Læk¬’ creates an even deeper impression of the loneliness those three men must have experienced. Looking back at the sunlit earth with its billions of inhabitants hanging ghost-like just above the Moon’s distant horizon could only have underscored just how far from home they were. Snippets of the astronauts’ voices set against a background of quiet susurrations, perhaps the song of their home 240,000 miles away being sung to them, linger spectrally in the diffuse vacuum of emptiness between.

Following on the heels of Sutekh Hexen come Anji Cheung & English Heretic, who take a slightly different tack on ‘Sancta’. A lilting drone lifts weightlessly to soar above the scarred surface and take flight, upon which rides a serene female voice as of some celestial spirit. Accompanying it are strings and shimmering planes of sounds like bowed metal, sounds which fan out in all directions, sparking and flickering, shining brightly for the briefest of moments before fading away. Eventually, it all meets the cosmic winds to splinter and disintegrate, and dissipate into nothing.

There’s nothing left after that, as Moon Mourning Earth’s doleful ‘Devour Us’ elucidates, potent chords massing into the aether along with a lamentation. It reminds me very much, at least initially, of Dead Can Dance and Brendan Perry which, far from being a bad thing, brings us back to the very human aspect of the whole enterprise. The mission has been accomplished, now what else is there to do?

Finally, it’s Tenhornedbeast’s turn, and it doesn’t disappoint – if anything it only serves to emphasise what I’ve been talking about above: unfathomable emptiness, the vastness of what is essentially an infinite quality, and oppressive loneliness, plus the insignificance of the human insect and the negligible moment when we touched down on the surface of another world. Significance and importance can only be judged against an appropriate scale – for us it was an event of some magnitude, but seen in a cosmic context it amounted to very little. It didn’t matter to the universe, only us.

Much of the music on here can be classified as unassuming, but it certainly isn’t meaningless or trivial. It just turns things upside down and challenges us to see things from a different viewpoint. In that context, certainly for me, it shifted things, and prompted me to realign my thought patterns to perhaps look at other situations in a different light. Whether those viewpoints contain any kind of truth or otherwise is irrelevant, but to start participating in the exercise helps put everything into context.

A quietly magnificent album.

Available as a digital download, a CD with a 44-page booklet in an edition of 185 (2 left as I write this!), and an edition of 13 with booklet and talisman (SOLD OUT!) from the following link:

Psymon Marshall 2019

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