A Setting Sun – December
Posted In: A Setting Sun, A Setting Sun - December, Jay Bodley, Mood Gadget, Pascal Savy
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Anyone familiar with mind-expanding substances will know that, at times, getting to a state of enhanced perception and ubiquitous understanding of what just ‘is’ can take an oblique and difficult route through dark corners of the mind and an overall sense of uneasiness. Along the way, physical pain and mental disturbances can be experienced before entering altered worlds of thoughtless calm. As the pain disappears and the mind settles, the reality shifts imperceptibly towards new and elusive territories where the familiar becomes both insignificant and truly revelatory, and the Now embraced as a perpetual state of normality. Along the way, intermediate new summits have to be climbed, leading sometimes to anxious emotional dissonances that shortly fade away as new but sometimes painful insights impose themselves to consciousness and turn into overwhelming truths for the matter.
‘December’ by Jay Bodley (aka A Setting Sun) is more or less an accurate transcription of such an experience… and that’s quite a feat to say the least. If he never paints colourful and vivid worlds, thus avoiding the easy cliches associated with psychedelia, he manages nonetheless to conjure an expansive sense of space and timelessness that is truly mesmerising. I wouldn’t say that ‘December’ is an easy listen, far from it, but it’s a very rewarding one. The album is very long but it never feels artificially stretched and one could easily spend another hour or three or four inside Bodley’s world without getting bored – quite the contrary in fact. Bodley has a natural talent for navigating the fine line between narration and abstraction, often managing to conjure and inhabit both, with graceful elan – and that perhaps explains why ‘December’ is so engaging.
In opening track ‘Livonia’, Bodley cuts a long story short and starts right in the middle of a powerful and elusive journey towards an “exploration of what “home” truly means.” After an ear-splitting section, alluding to the aforementioned liminal state of suffering, where harsh distortions make the pain nearly unbearable, undulating drones, quietly at first, emerge from the ashes of a world being left behind and subsequently lay down the foundations of a new-found inner peace where delicate sonic particles appear out of the void and slowly bounce on the surface of consciousness, thus conjuring up a numbing state of stasis where one could dwell for a very long time. As it turns out, it doesn’t take long for things to mutate into different worlds altogether.
Over nearly 20 minutes, ‘Cosmic Trigger’ part 1 & 2 unfold like a trip inside the trip. Easy at first, as lulling church bells and delicate sine waves resonate at a distance, things take a darker turn though as they gather momentum towards the end of pt.1, becoming almost painful when granular clouds start to collide, generating furious sonic flares for the matter. Pt.2 starts in complete silence, as if one was waking up from a coma, in the dark and unaware of an environment that would subsequently reveal its true foreign and menacing nature, populated with remnants of voice snippets repeating unrecognisable phrases and foreboding sheets of sounds that wash over the listener.
‘Frost’ is a more complex affair that unfolds ever so slowly over the course of 17 epic minutes. Everything that’s been experienced in the first three tracks comes back here in a more condense and intense form: the calm, the beautiful, the painful and the weird, are all present and emerge from a common core that go through various states of contraction and dilation as the piece progresses.
It’s only in closing track ‘December’ that Bodley seems to finally find what he’s willing to call ‘home’, a place of majestic but humbling splendour where expansive drones drift away at the cusp of consciousness. Despite the wounds experienced throughout this hour-long journey, an overwhelming sense of peace and awareness is what remains from the album’s deambulation as if a small treasure had finally been found.
“A surge of brighter radiance swept away all those flickering thoughts and memories. There was nothing now except a crystalline transparency of bliss.” (Aldous Huxley, Island)
- Pascal Savy for Fluid Radio