The Black Sun is, in Julia Kristeva’s words, ‘the blinding force of the despondent mood’. The insidious pervasiveness of melancholia ultimately leads to a collapse of communication where meaning is inexpressible: all thought becomes noise. Swedish sonic technician Jasper TX broadcasts his newest creation from within dark clouds that gather above the scorched earth and boiling waters that lie beneath this apocalyptic star.
Google the artist’s obscure moniker and the first reference that appears is to the insular Texas town that gained brief notoriety in the late 1990s as the setting for a brutal, racially-motivated lynching. On this album though, the allusion could equally be to Rx/Tx, the radio operator’s shorthand for Reception and Transmission. Accordingly, inimitable blips of morse code swiftly come to the fore on the opening track of Black Sun Transmissions spelling out to those who speak the mechanical language that there is ‘nothing left to say’, only ‘a quiet gloom’. Just as quickly, the signal disappears leaving electrical hum in its place (presumably the “Woodand Dust” of the track title), in a gesture that comes to characterise the overarching flow of the album. When bathed in the long shadow cast by a black sun, moments of luminescence flicker only briefly.
Multiple tiers of harmonic coherence negotiate each others’ presence, mutating slowly and often imperceptibly, like tectonic plates receding into lava. Second track “The Weight of Days” starts, as the previous left off, with a backdrop of fizzing static, out of which emerges looping passages of descending cello. It’s a series of simple descending cadences that resemble the transcendent purity of Arvo Pärt’s holy minimalism, a formula that is deployed once more on closing track “White Birds”, delicately balancing an arpeggiated piano figure against degraded avian murmurs.
Only once is the blend anything less than entirely convincing: “All I Could Never Be” layers drones, pulses and plangent piano to build a complex microtonal rumble underneath a sheet of pink noise that grows in intensity but remains detached, never quite coalescing into a persuasive union. Nonetheless, as you approach the full spectrum dominance of its final minutes, the sheer weight of the piece is not to be denied.
Comprising nearly half the entire album at twenty one minutes in length, penultimate track “Shores” is the richest of the set and the most keenly structured. After the swelling blanket of sound in previous tracks, the opening minutes are decorated by the sonic equivalent of pointillism as shards of humanity manage to pierce the amorphous fug. Tiny gasps and tics of saliva decorate a low frequency tidal pulse, echoing the sound of bodily introspection, before becoming cloaked in metallic tones and sighs. These are followed by the scraping of piano strings and soft billowing cymbals, which then recede once more in exhalation. Its ebb and flow is watery and intricate; a welcome relief, but an unnerving one nonetheless, which barely hints at what is to follow. As the track builds, shedding percussive droplets and whining feedback you finally get a glimpse of the ‘blinding force’ of Kristeva’s black sun.
It is possible to criticise an album such as this for its over-reliance on a limited sonic palette but Black Sun Transmissions is utterly engaging throughout, exhibiting multiple shades of an extraordinarily nuanced textural unity.