To review albums like Black Swan's third effort, Aeterna, which started shipping on April 4, always is an amazingly balanced mixture of pleasure and pain. And I'll explain this in a bit, but first let me get some things out of the way here: this is Black Swan's third album in three years of practically unknown activity – their facebook page, which is more than a couple of months old already has… 221 likes. Sure, we're talking about drone music, where popularity isn't exactly the "thing" to be worried about, but even considering that fact, they're still a couple light-years below too many radars. (Also, the fact that no one knows shit about Black Swan itself probably doesn't help – go read the description on their facebook page…) and for that I can already see people predicting that 98.76% of my appreciation for the music comes actually from the unheard-of-factor. As a rebuttal all I can give you is that I am not a hipster. You'll have to trust me that I'm an anal person that dislikes a lot of underground music and that actually thinks this is a great album.
Aeterna is for sure Black Swan's greatest effort, and I'm truly surprised by this fact. Thanks to a wonderful stroke of luck, I discovered In 8 Movements, his debut album, right by the time it was being released – which, I must say, was one of the levers that impelled me to a so-far-never-ending period of musical discoveries. Then came The Quiet Divide, the second best album of last year, to me at least – and the album cemented something inside me that I believe to be best described as a personal connection to the music. It meant something for me, but not in the dull sense of life-experience associations; instead it meant something in the sense that I can "count" on Black Swan. It is pretty stupid, I know – even if they had released ten masterpieces in a row it would be dumb, it always is, but that's the fun of being a fan, isn't it? And now, finally, the thing is that Aeterna has managed, somehow, through the brilliance of its music, to keep this moronic feeling of ever-fulfilled expectancy alive, and stronger than it ever was.
Back to the actual music, if you're still reading this, it possibly means you have some kind of interest in drone, or experimental music in general. Which means you have heard drone music or is looking for something to start. What I say on the rest of this paragraph is my feeble attempt at giving those starting at the genre a compelling description of the music to do so. I'm not saying that all drone music sounds the same – quite the opposite; however it might be, indeed, the music genre that relies the most on the hearing experience. And while Aeterna has several musical elements worthy of note – a wind ensemble on "Pavillion", human voices in choral on "Variation, 618", disgruntled creaks on "Dying God (Suite)", among several other impossible-to-identify-the-origin samples, are used here with beautiful subtly, adding an paradoxically disturbing heavenly quality to the varied, but ever-present, chaotic mass of noise; the borders between electronic and musical instruments-based music are completely wiped off; it's purposely arrhythmic, even dissonant – those elements are hardly paid attention to while listening. Of course, depending on who's hearing, that might be the case with all music, but the thing here is that those who pay less attention to detail, instead letting themselves be surrounded by the music, are the ones getting the richest rewards out of this.
But whatever I say sounds impure, as for the Xth time I listen to this album as I write this review, I still can't begin to find a way to describe in words the music I'm hearing without sounding cheap, derivative – as with all great music, as with all excellent, brilliant, superb music, words will never be enough. Through my ears comes the pleasure, through my hands leaves the pain. I keep trying to put down in this virtual sheet of paper the emotions brought up by the experience, the beautifully empty atmosphere that permeates this entire body of work but I feel that even if I was a great writer, which I'm far from being, I'd still fall short – I might even be able to disguise it under great prose, under rich vocabulary, but even if I was Joseph fucking Conrad I'd not be able to give you more than what I already am doing: a deep personal account of an experience that will affect every single one of us in indescribably different ways – the difference being that if I actually was Joseph fucking Conrad this would be a hell of an account and it would surely make you buy the album, the T-shirt, the vinyl record and even make a little trip to the heart of darkness, if necessary, just to listen to the goddamned album.
I can't do that though. All that my poorly ornamented gloomy style of writing can do is to tell you that by listening to Black Swan's Aeterna you have the chance of experiencing music that you simply don't go by everyday. It's a special kind of music: atemporal, formless, uplifting and devastating at the same time, a soundtrack not to a moment of some determined kind, but to the universe itself, to its infinitude and to our insignificance in it. Nothingness is beautiful because it has no frontiers, and Aeterna's music is the latest in a list of successful artistic incarnations of this fact; a small list that one is, I must tell you though. And I just hope you'll forgive me for not being able to give an account of the music itself, but I doubt that will matter anyway if you don't listen to the album itself, so that's all there is to my review: try it. It's so good that there's no reason for you, whichever may be your tastes, to not do so.
Of course, how much of a pretentious asshole would I be if, after causing you to waste precious minutes reading about the bad writer I am, I left you without a little taste of this album's brilliance? In albums like this, though, it's hard to find a song and extract it as greatness-sampling; it's such a cohesive work that no matter how great the track is by itself – and I assure you this is the case with every single one of them on Aeterna – it always loses something; part of an atmosphere that only the presently dying album-experience can provide. With that being said, we're left with logic: the album's opening song is my first choice – and I doubt that after hearing it you won't be compelled to be involved by the otherworldly atmosphere I just mentioned, which begins here with "A Lesson In Slow Flight."
But I don't want to be stingy. If I said before that every single track of this album manages to be amazing in itself, I'll give you "Variation, 618," another piece from Black Swan's apparent attempt to score the funeral of our beloved Gods. I won't give you the final eulogy though, the album's magnum opus, maybe not coincidentally-titled "Dying God (Suite)," the world's first epic-drone track (I guess) and possibly one of the most incredible things you'll ever hear – one of those preciously rare moments where music manages to convey visuals, imagery, as if it was possible to exist a music-film, where the sound that enters your ears could pass right before your eyes. Cinematographic, the best adjective music can ever receive, to me at least, is how I describe, once for all, Black Swan's Aeterna.
Maybe you'll hate this album – it's quite possible. But then again, with time I learned to stop worrying and just love the music; that doesn't happen if you don't try.