ASVA & Philippe Petit - Empires Should BurnEmpires Should Burn is the debut release from Asva and Philippe Pettit. Asva is the musical project of G. Stuart Dahlquist, a former member of Burning Witch, who has also had stints with Goatsnake and Sunn 0))), while Philippe Petit has been incredibly prolific as both a solo "musical travel agent" - to use his favoured description - and as a frequent collaborator. Foetus, Cosey Fanni Tutti, Lydia Lunch and Eugene S. Robinson are just some names grabbed from the illustrious list of artists he has worked with. For Empires Should Burn Asva and Petit have enlisted the talents of Edward Ka-Spel, Jarboe and performance artist Bryan Lewis Saunders to provide spoken word to accompany the reed organ drone and ringing metallic percussion that comprise majority of the tracks which combine to create something that starts quite creepy but ends up quite dreamy.
On 'And Empires Will Burn' Edward Ka-Spel narrates a "ghost story" over a sustained drone and the archaic rhythmic clanking of the cymbalum. At 23 minutes it is the longest track here but the subtle variations in the murky drone along with the various sound embellishments used to heighten the drama around the distinctive English tones of the Legendary Pink Dots frontman ensure this is the most absorbing of the spoken tracks.
The amusingly titled 'Sweet Dreams Asshole' enters nightmare territory with the hum of ghostly voices and clanking of cavernous percussion, alongside feint piano chords. Anguished howls rise from the depth completing this understated slice of dark, sinister doom. This is the first of two instrumental tracks on Empires Should Burn.
With whispered tones from Bryan Lewis Saunders about a skin blemish, 'A Vision' unfurls to squeamish effects with the almost indiscriminate piano notes coalescing into an ascending scale. Jarboe, likewise, opts for hushed tones on 'The Star Implodes', with her subdued voice nestling amidst a lulling drone, guitar disquiet and an assemblage of indeterminate sounds. The entire track is more spacious, stepping away slightly from the rhythmic clank that pervades most of the album, to capture a more elusive dreamy atmosphere.
Even though electronics are present throughout Empires Should Burn it's really only on the closing track, where they come to the fore in the form of a submerged pulse, as treated strings slip into the quiet disembodied piano notes of the dark and dreamy atmosphere of 'Apocryphatic_Ally'.
On Empires Should Burn Asva and Pettit achieve a fine balance between the vocals and the music, ensuring neither supplants the other. What I find especially interesting about Empires Should Burn - as I did with Mamiffers's collaboration with Locrian - though is the ability of Asva, and these groups associated with metal genres, to transform the dark and heavy elements of doom sonics into a more atmospheric, abstract musical form with startling results. On Empires Should Burn Asva and Petit have laid down a template which carries much mileage. It's of little surprise then a second album is already in the works. Who knows who will provide the voices next time though. Empires Should Burn is available on CD and as a limited vinyl release from Basses Frequences in Europe and Small Doses in the USA.