Sunday, 29 September 2019

Various Artists: Modern Bön IV - Urdhva Kundali [Exaltation]

Album: Modern Bön IV – Urdhva Kundali [Exaltation]
Artist: Various Artists
Label: Modern Bön
Catalogue no: N/A

     1.      Xmtr – Abara
     2.      Skuv – Urzeit
     3.      Evestrum – I am the last… I will tell the audient void
     4.      Human Spine – Abyss
     5.      Drought – Collapse of Maya
     6.      Laache – Ms
     7.      Lorenzo Abattoir – Identityisreclusion
     8.      Corps – Uncompromising #8

And so, after three compilation albums (Puraka [Inhalation], Kumbhaka [Contemplation], and Rechaka [Exhalation]) in this series, we finally reach the goal of our spiritual efforts – Urdhva Kundali [Exaltation], the crown of achievement, where the adherent attains enlightenment and has freed himself from the repetitive cycle of Death and Reincarnation. In the Western Magical and Hermetic tradition we would call it ‘attaining Godhead’: in other words transcending the material limitations of Earth and rising up through the layers of spiritual refinement until dissolving into the Ain Soph, as diagrammatically delineated by the cabalistic Tree of Life. For this final volume, the compilers have taken the tack you’d perhaps least expect: you’d imagine this would be more of a pure ambient selection, all soaring and airy chords taking flight to join with an ineffable effulgence of light, but instead we find dark ambient drone, industrial stylings, dramatic percussion, the sweeping breath of God(head), the unfolding of revelations. I’ve always held that total awareness doesn’t just encompass all that’s good, but also all that’s evil – you cannot be aware of one without being aware of the other – for balance, one must co-exist with its opposite quality. 

My reading of this is that it’s a slow unfolding of history, a virtual cinema reel of events that have happened since the world metamorphosed from clumps of rock into a planet, Xmtr’s ‘Abara’ begins in formlessness, vast winds blowing through all creation (or perhaps the time before that point), until very gradually matter coalesces under its own weight, clumping together into shapes and solidity, until the universe and all within it are revealed. Skuv’s ‘Urzeit’ delves into prehistory, the time before words and writing, bolstered on a solid foundation of drone, with a mixture of chaos (counterpointing drones and voices) and order (percussion). This is the period when the world was young, a time when it was still an experiment, when evolution was still feeling its way. The pulse of life is evident, but it still only exists as potential at this point.

‘I am the last… I will tell the audient void’, Evestrum’s contribution, is pure industrial barrage, a growling behemoth stamping its presence on the new world. This is now a world of giants, where all is on the grand scale, and nature is establishing the rules. It’s a world everything fights for attention and survival, and so survival of the fittest is etched into the DNA of every living creature, then and on into the future, from the lowliest to the most complex. Human Spine’s ‘Abyss’ sounds like the oceanic depths, the true abyss of the world, then as now, an unknown void where there is still much to be discovered. Doom-laden bass accompanied by distorted voice and guitar scrapes, as well as funereal drums, paints a picture of utter darkness, an abyssal space where man cannot yet go, full of danger and potential. Drought’s ‘Collapse of Maya’ rumbles into existence, piling itself up on a guitar refrain, crunch and crackle quickly gathering pace in the background, until the guitar chords explode in a welter of fuzzed out heaviness. Over this comes black metal vocals, rasping and snarling, biting and snapping, as the foundations of what we call reality appear to be faltering and crumbling, getting ready for the inevitable crash. All semblance of the life the adherent knew is stripped away, shorn of its gaudy trappings, to reveal the deceit at its core, and the unsteady framework it’s been built upon.

Laache’s ‘Ms’ hits the airwaves next and is a completely different beast, beginning with a woman’s voice informing listeners that one should be careful with one’s medications and follow doctor’s orders before changing into a reverberant, stuttering noise/ambient/industrial experimental piece. That opening voice passage is clever – a way of saying that society (and life) will always find ways to tempt you back to ‘normality’, the ‘consensual reality’ that’s imposed upon everyone. The true seeker will ignore and carry on being who they really are, whether it’s acceptable to the norm or not. ‘Identityidreclusion’ by Lorenzo Abbatoir pops up next, the second-longest track on the album after Drought’s entry. This one begins with footsteps and glitchy cracklings, a fractured and shattered mirror reflecting the true nature of the world most people live within. Noise outbursts are always ephemeral, lasting for only seconds at a time, unable to establish any kind of permanent foothold, indicative perhaps of the ephemerality of existence.

‘Uncompromising’ #8’ by Corps is exactly what it says it is – a blast of hot noise, obliterating deceit and illusion, destroying anything and everything false that stands in the way of truth. It’s a blistering flensing of distortion and deception, dissolving it in a bath of acid. It’s essentially a clearing away of all that hinders and keeps the human spirit from progressing. The adept, though, knows the signs, and has all the spiritual weapons to ward them off at his disposal.

This is a fitting conclusion to the four-part series exploring the process of attaining a state of spiritual enlightenment, a long journey with perhaps no end in this lifetime or even several lifetimes. Using music to express these concepts is probably the most effective way of doing so: catching the ‘mood’ (for want of a better word) is almost futile in any other way. The compilers should be congratulated for curating such a wonderfully broad collection of pieces across all four volumes, each of which speak individually to its allotted theme and narrative. I sincerely hope that we’ll be hearing more from Modern Bön, exploring still further the outer (and inner) limits of human consciousness – this has been quite the journey.

Available from the Modern Bön Bandcamp page:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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