Dissolution to Salt and Bone — a new album from the Washington duo The Sun and the Mirror — delivers a mesmerizing journey of ambiance and doom.
After an opening track of reverberating drones and mournful cello, the album rolls into “Currents,” which (like the fourth song) features over 17 minutes of music. The track gradually builds from an initial helping of thick-toned synth pulses into an utterly striking closing segment in which The Sun and the Mirror apply their meditative approach to an onslaught of roaring doom.
Swirls of sonic abrasion pick up as the song gets into its latter half, but although these static-like tones and some of the later riffing are harsh, the music remains entrancing. Moving through the album feels like gazing into some kind of strangely unsettling and somewhat disorienting haze, and when the heavier riffing kicks in at the end of “Currents,” the haze transforms into a fire rushing towards the sky — but the allure remains firmly in place, as though the music is underpinned by some kind of mystical draw.
The slower tempos help build this feeling — instead of a rush of anguish, the music sticks to something more like a soul-permeating fog. It’s like the sound of slow contortions, as though staring at an unexplained face in a mirror that slowly twists into silent screams.
The drones are a persistent presence across the album, appearing and setting the tone on “Currents” right from the get-go. The tones feel intriguingly disembodied, as though observing wisps of otherworldly color growing across a distant horizon.
Although this steady progression delivers a sense of refreshing (even if strenuous) metaphysical illumination, there’s also an earthy grounding thanks in part to the vocals from the duo’s Reggie Townley, who also handles elements including guitar and drums. (He performs alongside Sarah Townley, who handles the cello.) Reggie’s singing sounds soulful yet somber, delivering a pensive folk-like vibe. Throughout the journey, the music always stays decidedly personal, because although the songs feel grandiose, the arrangements are accessible, and the tones feel warm and alive.
“Katherinella Angustri,” which closes the record, begins with minutes of swirling drones and strings before morphing into a musical dust cloud of windy, snaking doom packed full of slowly shuddering riffs. The music largely feels rather melody-centric — the songs don’t seem particularly unwieldy — but there’s also a definite level of unease in the journey, and this persistent interweaving of the flame-like melodies with the smoky atmosphere establishes an undercurrent of existential anxiety.
The record has been billed on Bandcamp as for fans of the long-running doom/ drone metal project Earth, and that connection feels particularly prominent in the latter parts of the album closer. The trodding riffs carry a heavy level of feedback, and there’s a faintly earthy twang in the warm but dusty journey. After establishing its footing in a kind of solitary turmoil, the music seems like it captures an experience of looking out across some windy terrain as the blazing sun sets. In the sound, there’s what ultimately seems like a quiet resignation to an irrevocably expansive journey that lies ahead.
As the closing track’s lyrics put it: “Sinking in stones, a busy noise by waking day./ In whispering groves, resplendent brook sings in decay./ Land will divide, the stones divide into the waves./ Body and plains, we will be salt and ash and bone.”
Dissolution to Salt and Bone is available via Brucia Records.