Review of Sky Burial's 'Return to the Source' from Cvlt Nation

One often finds that the dark ambient genre – while no less diverse than any other field of music, in terms of the variety and number of its artists – has a tendency to over-invoke the concepts of “cold” and “infinite” to the extent that many recordings can seem indistinguishable from one another ( I hasten to add that, as a fan of the genre, I rather enjoy its preoccupation with sprawling voids and cosmic timelessness.) Fortunately, however, there is life in this dark universe, swirling in the grand designs of Michael Page’s Sky Burial. 

Return to the Source: A Dereliction of Beauty is the eleventh full-length Sky Burial release and Page’s second one this year after the well-received Pas The Sarvering Gallack Seas And Flaming Nebyul Eye (Obfuscated Records). Return’s lone 48-minute track diverges from the ecstatic trajectory charted on Pas the Sarvering – the familiar dynamism remains, but the overall tone is formidably darker, vertiginous, and unsettling. All of Page’s releases exude a powerful elemental quality, but this one is aptly named given that its effects are primal, humbling, and occasionally terrifying. 

Page’s history in power electronics and noise under the moniker Fire in the Head is also apparent here, particularly in the final 10 minutes. Bursts of feedback punctuate looping, metallic drones while roaring waves of static overlap the occasional tolling of bells, synth stabs or demonic vocalizations, and challenge the listener to surrender to cacophony. Consistent across his work is a sense of dynamic change and transformation characterized by an insistent, ambiguous feeling of presence (described on a previous release as Kiehtan,“a divine spirit with no human form or attributes”), which recalls Nietzsche’s assertion that the abyss stares back at us. Rather than a soundscape for the inconceivable cold of absolute zero, this is the sound of galaxies in flux, of gas giants holding court and the seething tension between the physical forces of mass, gravity, and energy. 

Additionally, the physical packaging exemplifies the Arizona-based Die Song label’s dedication to finely crafted collectibles. The limited edition is ensconced in an arigato pack with an engraved sheet metal cover,  accompanied by two black & white photo manipulations – and, as there won’t be too many of these in circulation (25 limited, 75 standard), it would be wise to snag one sooner rather than later.