Kshatriy: Transforming Galaxy

Now and then we receive material from Russia, and in almost every case it turns out to be dark ambient-industrial electronica, a style the artists on Zhelezobeton and its sub-label Muzyka Voln have refined to a state of near-perfection. Or so at least it appears based on the evidence of Transforming Galaxy, the second full-length album from Vsevolozhsk-based Sergey Uak-Kib, which presents seventy-eight minutes of deep ambient-dronescaping. It's a concept album of sorts that aspires to be nothing less than, quote, “an imprint of direct experience of the Universe,” unquote. In like spirit, Kshatriy (a Sanskrit word meaning warrior) dedicates it to “the end of Kali-Yuga—the age of technocratic lack of spirituality and moral decay—and to the attainment of human awareness of the Unity.” As always, the listener is at liberty to disregard all such background details and proceed directly to the music, which holds up well enough sans conceptual baggage.

The album's eight pieces are thick, atmospheric meditations, heavy on synthetic sounds and processed field recordings, with all of it shaped into immersive set-pieces of foreboding character. There's no shortage of cavernous rumblings, and at various times we hear the crackle of someone trudging through the outdoors, birds chirping, dogs barking, and crows cawing. A psychedelic undercurrent permeates the music, too, albeit one that's more cool and controlled than the norm (interestingly, a recent Kshatriy release is titled Mushrooms and Kshatriy). During “Initiation into the Higher Self,” crickets quietly chirp alongside a poisonous stream of bass hum and symphonic gloom, while thunderstorms and smothering winds swirl amidst ghostly exhalations in “The Song of the Unknown” for twelve nightmarish minutes. The title track is understandably oft-violent and cataclysmic in attempting to evoke primal transformation at a galaxial level. By contrast, the closing “Love is the Key” is naturally the least turbulent setting and consequently hints that some degree of resolution has been reached. The Eastern stylings of the recording come to the fore during “Hymn to Kali (part 3)” when hand bells become a dominant sound element, even if they gradually give way to the album's more familiar dark ambient blend. On this well-crafted if overlong opus, a battle of sorts appears to be waged throughout, one that finds forces of dark and light involved in constant struggle—the moments of relative levity and clarity obviously suggesting that the good side has temporarily gained the upper hand while the claustrophobic episodes hint that evil forces have gained victory.

July-August 2012