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This मोक्ष Compilation Brings Us All a Little Closer to the Traditional Death Rituals of Trunyan, Bali

When it comes to high-concept releases, मोक्ष definitely hits high on the list. This compilation out of Russia is only available in its full form as a digital download; the cassette version is missing the final three tracks, or “3rd phase.” The title translates to Moksha:  the Hindu concept of transcendence achieved upon escaping the cycle of reincarnation. According to the liner notes, this compilation was prepared with the purpose of disseminating cassettes in the Balinese village of Trunyan. The statement practically begs for its own explanation. The isolated village of Trunyan was chosen specifically due to their almost singular funerary practices, which date back to the neolithic era; Trunyan is (apparently) known for not burying their dead[1]. Their bodies are left under cloth and bamboo canopies to decompose, at which point the skulls are moved, by boat, 500 meters north, to be placed on a special altar. An ancient Banyan tree near the decomposition site is said to either absorb or negate the smell of the rotting bodies.

Without a crash course in anthropology however, does मोक्ष work as a compilation? For the most part, yes. मोक्ष is mainly beat-driven, drawing heavily on influences from Eastern traditional music. The opening track, “Aschgrauer Formalismus,” is a deep drone affair, with groans and bell tones drifting through a nearly bottomless abyss; Obt Grubsucrum sets a mood, but by no means establishes the pace of the compilation. Project Hypoxia follows closely with a minor key percussive track of drums and sitar. Their contribution could have just as easily been replaced by Muslimgauze; in no way is that a sleight, however. “As Above, So Below” is moody enough to match the mid-tempo pace of the percussion tracking, never coming across as too rushed or disjointed. The pace continues to speed up with Per Aspera, who contribute a mix of edited samples, drum beats, and synth. There are hints at highly-polished European industrial, a la Project Pitchfork and VNV Nation, which leave “Karma Carnage” feeling almost too studio-savvy. Without any distinct vocal line or definite melody, the track ambles by without leaving much in the way of an impression, which is unfortunate considering the overall fidelity of the material.

मोक्ष, presumably at the Trunyan altar.

Bhārata Mātā opens the second phase with sampled vocals, synth lines, and percussion; whether the vocals, crickets, and whistling are field recordings or performed is difficult to distinguish, but the overall execution works. The rhythm stumbles at times, never offensively so, but enough to keep the ear’s attention. Krrau provides the stand-out contributions to this compilation, however, with “Eleonore.” Syncopated hand-drums thrum in the background, rising and falling over a deep bass drone. Spoken vocals echo over themselves, Russian syllables trail themselves into the distance before ceremonial horns rise from the background in melancholic fanfare. This is the track that feels most aligned with the topic matter which inspired the release.  ﻗﺎﻣﺖ ﺍﻟﺳﺎﻋﺔ closes out the cassette segment with an aggressive track that, despite its staggering rhythms and droning harmonics, begs repeat play-throughs. Shrieked male vocals punctuate the overlaid percussive elements, lending a narrative feel to the mixture of samples and (assumed) field recordings. The entire track feels like it might collapse at any given moment, but somehow it holds together, like some sort of bizarre mashup between Muslimgauze and Sun City Girls.

As far as the cassette portion of मोक्ष is concerned, there is enough diversity between each act to warrant future listening sessions, and the overarching tone is cohesive enough that there is a definite sense of curation and purpose behind the whole. The digital-only third phase is, generally speaking, more of the same; solid, well-composed, but akin to the special features on a DVD.  Ugasanie is working in similar territory to Obt Grubsucrum, with mouth-harp and droning electronics (moody but not particularly captivating). Vehjora’s “Cho-Nyi Bardo” is a slow burner; what seems like a simple drone ambient track turns into a grating, distorted churning wall that is still relatively unmoving with the whole of the track contained within a single chord. It is at least texturally interesting, however. The closing track by Aguleg & Irm is one of the most interesting contributions. Field recordings and warbling electronics intermingle almost drunkenly until (literal) drum and bass enters the track. “Space” has strange overtones of trip-hop to it, but with more of a meandering gait than might be expected in comparison to the rest of the release. The main rhythm and melody lines drift off to be replaced by field recordings yet again, wrapping up with the sound of bells and rustling foliage.

ﻗﺎﻣﺖ ﺍﻟﺳﺎﻋﺔ

Whether or not मोक्ष is a release that warrants hard-earned cash and internet sleuthing is up to the individual. However, if this compilation did actually make its way to the village of Trunyan[2], it would be interesting to see how the local population views these tracks in relation to the funerary rites that inspired the release. Who knows, there may be a boombox on the steps of the village temple with this on repeat for special occasions. Or, maybe just a basket of tapes, waiting at the dock for the sweaty hands of foreign tourists.


[1] According to Wikipedia, only married couples receive this treatment. If you’re dead and single, you get buried in the ground.

[2] The label provided a photo of the cassette at the shrine of skulls, however it still remains to be seen how many copies were actually distributed.

Track List:

Side A: 1st Phase: Existentia: Idup Ring Marcepada: Phase of Life:
A1) Obt Grubsucrum – Aschgrauer Formalismus
A2) Project Hypoxia – As Above, So Below
A3) Per Aspera – Karma Carnage

Side B:  2nd Phase: Post Mortem: Sampun Seda: Phase of Death:
B1) Bhārata Mātā – The Sign
B2) Krrau – Eleonore
B3) ﻗﺎﻣﺖ ﺍﻟﺳﺎﻋﺔ – Гроб Слишком Узкий. Вечность – Слишком Долго…

Digital Only: 3rd Phase:  Aeternum: Perjalanan Astral:  Phase of Eternity
01) Ugasanie – Soul Attendant
02) Vehjora – Cho-Nyi Bardo
03) Ajuleg & Irm – Space

Written by:  Thomas Boettner
UIS (Russia) / UIS-07 / Tape, Digital
Collapsar Publishing (Russia) / None / Tape
Electronic / Industrial / Dark Ambient