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Rituel de la mort du Soleil. KASSEL JAEGER
(Unfathomless. 2013)

Review by Jay-Dea Lopez

As the sun sets darkness closes over the region of Pellechevent, France. The distant cries of children filter into the local swampland, the sound blending with the nocturnal creatures emerging from the shadows. This is the opening section to Kassel Jaeger’s dense and deeply intense opus “Rituel de la mort du Soleil”. As the piece progresses we question whether this “death” simply refers to the setting of the sun or if, instead, it refers to the final moments of life on earth. The tone of “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” is such that both interpretations could be true, the title adding power to Jaeger’s mix of raw and modified field recordings from this thick swampy locale.

Throughout “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” sounds from beyond the immediate space of the microphones make us aware of the liminal position in which we have been immersed. Distant sounds of trains, traffic and planes provide the listener with an acute sense of what lies outside the perimeter of the recording site. These external sounds are used by Jaeger to effectively contrast the world in which we are now seated. In our near vicinity we hear life emerging from the murk beneath us. Steady low groans, reminiscent of tectonic movements, loop mesmerically as the higher frequencies of crickets call from above. Slaps and rustles, perhaps trees being struck, add a percussive element. Many of these sounds are processed giving the illusion of being vaguely recognisable. Are they sounds we hear beyond our immediate level of consciousness – sounds familiar to an ancient part of our brain?

“Rituel de la mort du Soleil” is as dark as it is captivating. There is a powerful environmental message here. The mix of industrial and natural sounds, modified and unmodified sounds, highlight the state of Earth in the 21st century. How cognizant are we of the life that stands before us? We listen with the knowledge that these natural spaces are growing smaller. An equilibrium between the natural and industrial worlds has failed to be reached. We question if this space will also be lost – we wonder if the sounds Jaeger has recorded will one day be relegated to the archives.

The final section of “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” grows quieter; the earthly rumbles of the earlier passages fade. As a cricket continues to call a processed airy drone rises to prominence. The drone hangs suspended while short bursts of static break into the piece. It is a reminder that “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” is a construct. It is layers of sound that have been recorded and edited into an artificial form in a studio divorced from its original recording site. Nevertheless “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” moves and breathes, emitting its own unique frequencies for those prepared to listen.

Are these our last days? Listening to “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” do we hear the death of the sun? Do we simply hear an eternal ritual that has been enacted since the beginning of time – the transition of life as it moves between night and day and back to night? We listen to “Rituel de la mort du Soleil” again, searching for answers to these questions.

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[Kassel Jaeger]

Kassel Jaeger website
Unfathomless website