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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Uitgeschakeld - The Four Stages of Enlightenment [Altar Of Waste - 2016]

The Four Stages of Enlightenment is a four disc CDR set, with each disc offering a lengthy submersion in dense wall- craft from this up & coming Dutch project. Fitting the releases title, the theme behind all the ‘walls’ here is ancient Eastern philosophy & mediation. 

The four discs each come in their own DVD case, and these feature double sided black & white pictures. The pictures take in ancient temples, Buddhist priest/ followers mediating, and dramatic landscapes. It came in an edition of ten numbered copies.

Each disc here features an around eighty minute track, and first of these is “Sotapnna”. The word sotâpanna literally means "one who entered (âpanna) the stream (sota)” which  is the first step that leads to the Buddhist Nirvana. The track opens in very, very meditative & pared-back form with a series of spaced-out male chants & bell chimes. With-in just over a minute the opening elements have departed, and the ‘wall’ has moved into place. This is a rapid, slightly agitated, yet in time hypnotic blend of the following elements: A galloping & ripping pattern, an on/off wiry scraping pattern, and a thin yet rushing sweep.  There is nice definition & separation between each of the texturally element here, meaning you can follow either separate element pattern, or the joint weave. As the track progress the scarping element is seemingly descending in pitch( then later ascending), while the other elements sort of gallop &  at times slightly hick-up along…I’m not sure if either of these adjustments are actually happening, or it’s just a sonic illusion- but this is really what’s pull you in & keeps you locked  into the tracks for it’s 79 minute runtime. At around the thirty minute point the scarping element is replaced by more consistent & keen blend of rustling ‘n’ shaking textures, though latter on the scarping element seemingly  returns( in a more spaced-out form)  
 
Moving onto disc two, and we have “Sakadagami”.  In Buddhism, the title means "returning once" or "once-returner,"  a partially enlightened person, who has cut off the first three chains with which the ordinary mind is bound, and significantly weakened the fourth and fifth. Once again the track opens in a more meditative & mystical place, blending together almost operatic like chants, with deeper throat-singing & one struck bell toll- then we’re into the noise. This ‘wall’ is a dense & rushing affair- to start with we get a blend of thick feasting galloping, which is underfed by the droning & throbbing element- which is seemingly growing closer & closer; then all of a sudden  drifts back. As the track moves into its third minute the dense feasting element, seems to alter, shift & almost break- yet it never does. The droning/throbbing element keeps going through this circle of growing & nearing, the reducing & thinning back- at times this element has quite a synth based quality about it, with hints at a more meaty harmonic tendencies. At around the five & a half minute we have this very subtle & thin splintering 'n' sliding element added into the mix. And as the drone moves into its less dense phase you get to detect more details of this new element..  As the track  progresses, you get a nicely dense yet shifting layer make-up, with the original elements been joined by less regular elements. For example around the 13th minute mark, there are hints of thinner, more wiry, and squiggling texture appearing- these smaller elements appear, sometime hang around, other times not, but these pull you deeper into the whole seared yet meditative vibe of the ‘wall’.

Onto disc three, and we have “Anagami”- once again this is another track with a Buddhist connection.  It’s the name for a partially enlightened person who has cut off the first five chains that bind the ordinary mind. This track opens in quite a strange & unsettling manner, with layers of whispered vocals, and what sounds like wind recordings. Fairly soon we’re into the ‘wall’, and to start with it’s a blend of spitefully hacking 'n' feasting mid-ranged static, with this sweeping ( though difficult to discern) ambient element underneath. It’s very busy & overwhelming in its feel, with the noise textures coming in seeming sways of deep-to-thinner swells of sound.  As the track processes the hacking & feasting patter-nation stays fairly set in it’s lay-out( save for the build-ups), but the ambient element seems to have disappeared, and it’s place is the weird spinning/ buzzing sound, as well as a few other buried sub-tones- these hint at more harmonic matter from time-to-time, though it’s difficult to full define these elements. The noise textures in this track are fairly narrow in their tonal setting, so as a result the whole thing often feels like out white-out. So for this reason I found this the least appealing of the track here, though the shifting buried elements did give some reward.

Lastly of course we have the forth & final disc- this is entitled “Arahant”, which is the Buddhist word for the "one who is worthy" or as a "perfected person" having attained nirvana. Unlike the other tracks we jump straight into the ‘wall’, and once again it’s another dense & unforgiving affair. It’s built around a selection of rushing, juddering, and churning textures- these stay around a lower-to-mid range. And together create this feeling of constantly swirling &  revolving wall-craft,  which at points feels like it’s speeding up, then at others ambling a bit more. Like the track on disc three we once again have a fairly narrow tonally range present here, but due to constant feeling of swirling movement - it really kept my interest though it’s whole length, with its persistent & dense spiralling rush.

There certainly is a scene history of  Buddhism themed Walled noise - with more than a few wall acts theming the occasional release around the belief/religion, and a few years back you even had completely Buddhist themed HNW projects like Czech Republic based Satic Mantra . And The Four Stages of Enlightenment fit’s nicely in  this sub-genre, offering up a mostly worthing release. Sure I didn’t completely enjoy all four of the ‘walls’ here,  but I found some worth in each- and three I’d gladly sit though again("Sotapnna", "Sakadagami" & "Arahant").  Sadly this has set has now sold out direct from the label, but you might be able to source a copy on discogs.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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