Halo Manash – Am Kha Astrie

15/05/2009 § Leave a comment

Artist: Halo Manash
Title: Am Kha Astrie
Label: Aural Hypnox Productions
Genre: Ritual Ambient

Track Listing:

01 Spring Solar Semen
02 A Spiral Spine Ever Emanating
03 The Treefaced Trunk Arises – A Pillar Through All Worlds
04 In the Deepest Womb of MAA, the Skyshrouded is Born
05 At Ashen Shrines of the Seventh Sign Antlers Ascend
06 All Herald Its Shape and Shadow
07 The Dream That It Dreams – Awakened

Idly walking through the churches of Central London, I noticed that the statuettes had been enshrouded over Easter. In a time of year pertaining to penance and reflection, the veils between the worlds of light and dark can seem ever so thin. Now, in the dim dawning of Spring, Halo Manash’s latest work comes more fittingly into being. Their most recent offering, a seven-part convocation of sound, is an arrow to the heart of the orthodox, the pious and the enlightened. Am Kha Astrie, the second in their latest tripartite trilogy, is a beautifully harrowing invocation split into seven sections, each one perfectly fashioned as to be its own piece of chillingly effective ambient.

Once again Halo Manash have not disappointed in the visual department: the album’s packaging is a cruciform casing which opens outwards to reveal a depiction of a barren vista in which the CD sits. Halo Manash take more care over the presentation of their albums than possibly any band I have known – the special edition of The Language of Red Goats even coming with hand-pressed artwork and original parchment in a rope-tied box. The visual format is a perfect companion to the musical dark ambient rituals of Halo Manash.

Spring Solar Semen/A Spiral Spine Ever Emanating: As Spring brings awakenings, beginnings and new life, Halo Manash begins the start of its next cycle. A single, subtle animal horn ushers us into being and we get the feeling of being in a cavernous, large and empty space. A background drone underlies the notes of the horn, repeating ominously over and over. The sound of the horn creates a feeling of feralness, the desperate cry of a bestial being, eventually joined by indefinable human voices and subtle chants. The invocations end with the single cry of the horn, ever emanating and receding.

The Treefaced Trunk Arises – A Pillar Through All Worlds: One of Halo Manash’s more serene and calmer moments, we are greeted by the soft, low tapping of a gong while metal brushes against metal. Way in the distance we hear a prologued cry echoing and calling. This is one of the most atmospheric and ambient moments from Halo Manash. Mystifying, calming but also unsettling and unnerving. There is a sense that this is the beginning to something grander, the primer of the incantation, preparing us for the full force of something more authoritative and powerful to come.

In the Deepest Womb of MAA, the Skyshrouded is Born: As before, we feel the brush of metal on metal as the elemental drive of the wind rushes all around us, carrying us on. Then, with no warning, we hear the multiple tapping of bone on bone, speeding up while hollow voices chant in the background, interspersed with the rush of the wind. We are have never left the caverns and there is a sense of carrion, death, and the essence of control. Halo Manah becomes more powerful, more creative as we reach the active crest of Am Kha Astrie.

At Ashen Shrines of the Seventh Sign Antlers Ascend: There is a sense of calm, relief and recovery after the energy just passed. We get the feeling of rising or elevating beyond the caverns into a great, empty space. Stars boom and explode around us as we hear the soft chime of bells and single notes sung by the human voice, joining us on our journey upwards. There is an equal level of intensity to what went before, but deeper, emptier, and drainingly substantial.

All Herald Its Shape and Shadow: We continue our ascension and are aware of a great space we inhabit. Suddenly we hear the banging of metal drums. Occasional loud crashes assault our ears. The feeling of being free turns into one of entrapment and isolation. Like being in a building at night with some unseen force chasing us from room to room. Like being hunted. There is something unknown and threatening here. Soon we are joined by the melodic taunt of the horn receding into the distance and then rejoining us, ebbing back and forth. Eventually the horn recedes for the final time with just one drawn out bellow concluding the track, reminding us of its existence.

The Dream That It Dreams – Awakened: The longest and final section of the album is far more airy and ethereal than what has gone before. We are ushered out by relieving, subtle gongs and cymbals, quietly and cautiously played while ghostly voices echo softly in the background. There is a sense of permanence, relief and respect as Am Kha Astri comes to a perfect close.

As Halo Manash is in a constant form of metamorphosis, we come to this, possibly its most ambient in the series. Am Kha Astrie is the most vivid and emotive exposition so far, mixing together the industrial, the elemental, the tribal, the vocal and the darker sides of ambient rituals. Some parts are intense, full-on and authoritative; others are dreamlike, ambient and calming. There is no point at which Am Kha Astrie cannot be looked on as a perfectly dark work of depth and wonder. Out of all the blackening, ritualistic pleas and dedications to the darker realms of existence, none come so fine and complete as this.

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