At five songs and well over an hour in duration, Pas is definitely not a light, buoyant work. Opener “Na Fir Ghorm” is the shortest, clocking in at around eight and a half minutes, and sets the stage similar to last year’s “Carne[val]”, although this time with Nigel Ayers contributing. The stuttering, static laden rhythm and bent music box sounds put an occult spin on carnival trappings, made all the more excruciating by the pained bagpipes of Craig McFarlane.
The title piece follows, a bit more collage-like overall with its quaking, apocalyptic crashes and junk metal percussion, with an occasional guitar-like squall slipping through. Through its insect like buzzes and interlocking layers of noise, it builds to a disorienting haze that mercifully relents up a bit in its closing minutes, giving a needed relief. “Vessel-Abstractions” (featuring contributions from John Balestreri of US power electronic legend Slogun) is structurally similar, although a bit more simplistic in its approach. Subterranean echoes and spectral drones are occasionally interrupted by thin analog synth passages and distant banging noises. As it devolves into a primordial muck of noise and reverb, it is extremely effective, although not as singular sounding as others on the album.
At nearly 21 minutes, “The Longest Day Heralds the Darkness to Follow” makes for the definitive centerpiece to the disc. At first understated, there is a leviathan like lurk just out of reach, even amidst the relatively more understated moments. Pulsing synths underscore grandiose strings, with occasionally identifiable piano melodies making it through the fog. While still a dark, oppressive feeling throughout, there are almost hints of lightness to be had, like those final dying rays of sun hinted at from the title.
Closing piece “Fuligin Cloak” is a bit more basic structurally, at least in comparison to what preceded it. An engine revving into opaque space, there is an impregnable wall of sound (aided by Andrew Grant, a.k.a. the Vomit Arsonist) that stays throughout, dense but not overly oppressive, with layers of electronics and subtle percussion keeping the piece from becoming stagnant. As a whole it follows the trend from “The Longest Day…”, allowing a bit of sunlight into the cavernous layers of noise.
Like There I Saw the Grey Wolf Gaping, there is a strong sense of consistency from piece to piece, but even with the diverse roster of collaborators, it feels singularly like Page’s album. Hints of later period Coil and early Current 93 show up here and there, but as influences and not emulations. Sky Burial albums have been on an excellent trajectory, with each one topping the brilliance that followed it, and Pas is no exception at all. This is Michael Page at his fully realized and actualized, and it is a mesmerizing work from start to finish.