Jasper TX: The Black Sun Transmissions
Dag Rosenqvist's Jasper TX material has typically opted for the darker end of the spectrum, but, true to its title, The Black Sun Transmissions may very well be his darkest statement to date. It's guitar-and-effects-generated gloomscaping of the first order that plays like a long-form, five-part travelogue filled with contrasting moods and intense peaks and valleys. The new release is the formal follow-up to his last Fang Bomb release, 2009's Singing Stones, and last year's Under The Spire collection A Voice From Dead Radio. While one might find an occasional pastoral moments on those releases, The Black Sun Transmissions is bleak, dread-fueled, and despairing—which isn't, of course, meant to imply that it isn't accomplished or doesn't offer its own particular rewards, because it is and does.
After a half-minute of scratchy, insectoid noise, a violent rupture jolts the listener to attention and sends “Signals Through Wood & Dust” on its less-than-merry way. The nightscaping atmospherics that follow are prototypical Jasper TX: menacing, funereal, and coal black. Eerie transmissions and sputtering signals pierce the cloud of static and interference that emerges thereafter in a setting that can't help but conjure images of a wasteland long free of human activity. As its title suggests, the oppressive mood hardly lifts when “Weight of Days” arrives without interruption. Some small semblance of hope emerges at this juncture, however, in the church-like tones that waver beneath the thick textures and in the emotive cello figures Aaron Martin contributes to the piece. His playing brings a powerfully melancholic tone to the material, as do the two-note tinkles that appear in its wake. That gradual move into gentler territory carries over into “All I Could Never Be,” though it abandons its peaceful state soon enough to become a seething, all-consuming black hole that builds to an hellacious, almost crippling level of intensity. Rather than combust, however, the material rapidly deflates, clearing a path for the album's twenty-one-minute centerpiece, “Shores,” which, true to its generous length, unfolds patiently, with Rosenqvist filling in its landscape one stroke after another. More evocation than standard composition, “Shores” initially paints a desolate scene where faint bell tinkles and wind rustlings echo across vast, empty spaces; during its second half, however, the material builds in volume and density, with Zelienople drummer Mike Weis adding percussive flourishes and cymbal shadings to the turbulent mass. At album's end, “White Birds” returns us to the scarred terrain of the album's opening track, though the skies brighten during the album's closing minutes when the delicate lilt of a piano lightens the gloom with its plaintive voice, a move reinforced by the inclusion of Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø's trombone playing.
It's comforting to see Rosenqvist end the album on a note of uplift rather than despair. Even so, his particular brand of soundscaping is always worthy of one's time, even when it opts for doom-laden atmospheres over sunnier ones as it does throughout much of The Black Sun Transmissions.