Saturday, January 14, 2012

REVIEW: A Setting Sun - December

7.75 out of 10

Before reviewing this album, mention of Jay Bodley would have only drawn vague recollections. Releases under his moniker 'A Setting Sun' have appeared for years on music blogs left and right, only to soon disappear in the flood of new artists. At first, I took Bodley to be just another figure in the electronic scene hoping to make it big – a bitter paradox in the world of experimental music. However since A Setting Sun's 'December' has landed in my iTunes library, never again will I pass his work with a fleeting glance. Jay Bodley: learn the name now, because it's one you're sure to hear more in the years to come.

'December', a five-piece album, opens with the fourteen minute “Livonia.” It sets the stage with a hushed decayed tone, but from the quiet emerges a frenzy of noise – harsh and dissonant, yet modest and composed. A beautiful interlude unfolds about six minutes into the track, where a musical box tune sneaks upon the listener like a gift from the past. The odd coalition of the familiar and otherworldly plays a vital role in 'December'. Though wild sheets of feedback raid the ears in each song, close listening reveals a world of layers. “Cosmic Trigger Pt. 1” features seraphic blankets of voices. “Cosmic Trigger Pt. 2” contains cryptic telephone messages and echos of rain falling on windows. “December” even throws in the roar of an ascending airplane. “Frost,” however, contains more elements than any other piece. Overplaying a spectral drone are abstract sounds each achieving their own specific role. A knife scraped against a table. A melody of dripping water. A thundering static of blank television channels. A rake dragged along the ground. Wake up in the middle of the night in some suburban town, and “Frost” probably isn't too far from what you'll hear.

Memory's relation to sound has been an ever flourishing concept in electronic music. Loose collectives of artists, like those of the Hauntology scene, have made it the primary focus underlining their releases. And if you read the description Bodley provides on Moodgadget, he labels the memory casted by December as “a gentle exploration of what home truly means.” On first listen of the album, hints of home are so muddled in pink noise that they're often missed. Listen to it again, and you hear the motives behind every screech, every abstract ingredient thrown into the mix. Because what makes 'December' so intriguing is its ambiguous approach to memory, unlike artists like The Caretaker who paint a specific time and place. 'December's' reflections are timeless images of the soul, glimpses of a home we all long for, moments resounding with loneliness and solitude. Bodley presents the ghosts of nostalgia like the hazy apparitions they are – just movements in shadows, lost in the sea of the mind.

Standout Tracks: Cosmic Trigger Pt. 2, Frost, December

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