In Aulis: a dry recording with too little drama, not enough intensity

Yiorgis Sakellariou, In Aulis, Belgium, Unfathomless, CD U49 (2017)

A quiet and rather dry recording, “In Aulis” pays homage to the ruined ancient temple of the goddess Artemis in Aulis, in Greece. Photographs on the CD sleeve cover and inside show pillar bases and stone rubble surrounding a mound of bare ground and grass scrub while in the distance power poles and concrete towers, themselves appearing as abandoned and bereft of life as the temple remains, stand as silent sentries.

The CD rumbles slowly in appearing in the audio universe; a work dedicated to an Olympian deity just cannot be rushed but must present itself gradually and solemnly. Wheezing steel wire noises that unroll and stretch in an echoing tunnel, taut strings that tremble ever so slightly, ghostly moaning drones and eerie space-ambient flotsam combine to produce a mysterious and unsettling sound universe. Something grand that inspires awe and respect but which also keeps us at bay, stopping us from becoming more familiar with the entity and from human penetration into its mystery, is present though more sensed through intuition than actually heard.

About the 20th minute the recording mutates into a dark seething beast, all heaving breathy rhythm operating on a shunting beat, etched by washes of cold that turn out to have sword-sharp edges. This edifice soon smashes into the ground by broken glass. Was a giant mystery creature sacrificed to Artemis just then? We do not know – the sounds retreat into needlepoint wisps of noise very lightly skipping through space. Soon the rumble resumes its path and transforms into a noisy churning racket that grows in urgency and intensity … until that also collapses.

While parts of “In Aulis” are very enthralling and often madly intense and dramatic, these moments are few and far between. For much of its playing time, the recording quietly broods and gathers its strength to summon whatever human energy still remains in long-abandoned and eroded buildings in this part of Aulis long after their original builders departed. While I do respect Sakellariou’s right to make “In Aulis” the way he believes it should be, I do find many passages in the work are very long and the noises in these passages so fragile and brittle for what they are, that as links between more bombastic sections of the recording these passages are very insubstantial and the work can seem a bit unbalanced and top-heavy or bottom-heavy depending on the composition of the work.

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