Aerial Ruin Journey Under A “Nameless Sun”
Portland, Oregon-based Aerial Ruin, the solo project of Erik Moggridge, plays frequently throughout his home state. As a local, I've seen him perform now multiple times -- and although the performances involve Moggridge sitting in a chair on a darkened stage with his guitar, they never get old. I look forward to them with intense anticipation, and greet announcements of each new Aerial Ruin album with the same feeling. Their new album Nameless Sun released September 8, and Moggridge is now in the early stages of a nationwide tour (dates below).
There’s a continuous thread between this album and Moggridge’s other four: each song is as strong as the next. As soon as I press play on Nameless Sun, the same sense of meditative calm washes over me that I get from all of his other albums. (I wrote about 2015’s Ash of Your Cares here and his 2013 split/collaboration with Stevie Floyd here).
This one, though, is a little different. Although Moggridge has included electric guitar in the past, Aerial Ruin is primarily acoustic. Here, his musical images, which are generally blanketed in lonely acoustic shadows, become more otherworldly. Using simple but evocative hooks, this album moves from a quiet, tender opening to the journey's end at the nameless sun of the album's name.
From the beginning, the music tells a story of a journey to somewhere far away, perhaps out of necessity, perhaps out of a hope of something better to come. If you follow along lyrically, the opener, "How Far," suggests that the world now inhabited is ending. He croons, "From where you are you've gone too far / You'll now collapse the nearest star / You'll toll the bell and wear it well." Later he says, "Land over sea to the sky is the key." Moggride's descriptive guitar strumming sways listeners towards sadness, while his high, thin, plaintive voice is the perfect complement to create a gray world both dreary and comforting.
The electric guitar makes choice appearances. It's not overdone, and that's good. As Moggridge describes below, the electric guitar is a layer placed atop the acoustic. The two don’t embrace; rather, they collide to take us to another dimension. “Nameless Sun was recorded gradually over many scattered on-and-off sessions between September 2016 and April 2017 by Lot 3 Audio in Portland, Oregon. This allowed for the contrast of the very minimalist material and the more intricate. I was able to record the foundation of certain songs and then come back and add accompaniments on electric guitar and layers of vocals after having lived with it for a while,” Moggridge says.
Much of Nameless Sun is his usual shades of grey. But particularly on “How Far,” “In the Glory of Nigh,” and the title track, the usual lyrical mourning floats away on a wave of an expanding universe. “In the Glory of Nigh” is only six lines of lyrics, but more than five minutes of music. Moggridge’s voice calls out from a great distance, and the electric guitar tries to bridge the gap but can’t quite reach.
The track “Nameless Sun” closes out the album, and it’s nearly twice as long as any of the others. It starts out faster and more repetitive, creating a feeling of anticipation. In this song, the electric guitar is the sharp curl of propulsion over a field of stars. The livly pace of his acoustic strumming here tells us we can't go back, the engines have been activated. And, when the electric guitar kicks in it's at the same time that he repeats lines as if in prayer, leading up to the arrival at the “nameless sun” we’ve been journeying to.
Moggridge sings from his position as an observer, full of hope and fear for the creation that is before him. “And as all will expand and abandon this fusion for cold,” he sings.
For a drift be of ice then to shift and to scatter as told
Or inflame the embrace that engulfs and returns to the fold
When you’re ever to see but never to lie
If you sever the three would you blacken to nigh
In the name of belief will you promise the sky.
The most disconcerting thing about Nameless Sun is that immediately after the last word, the music ends. What happens? Has our traveler crossed the event horizon, or shot past the sun farther into space to drift in an endless void? Has he flown into the glittering light of the dying sun? The beauty is not knowing, and yet also knowing that any of the possibilities are equal in their indifference.
Nameless Sun benefits from the mastering of James Plotkin (who Moggridge has worked with previously) as well as the molecular, alchemical, organic artwork by Bryce Shelton of Eleventh Vision and AK Wilson. Moggridge's tour in support of Nameless Sun at Shadow Woods Metal Fest in White Hall, Maryland (September 14 to 17). Then he headed back to Portland for a tour that doesn’t end until December 1, with more dates possibly being added along the way.
During the same time period in which Moggridge recorded Nameless Sun, he also contributed his unique, sorrowful voice to the forthcoming Bell Witch album, Mirror Reaper. Aerial Ruin and Bell Witch will both be appearing at Roadburn Festival, and Moggridge will be singing with Bell Witch during their second set, which will feature the band playing their eighty-three minute album in its entirety.
10/9 - Iowa City, Iowa - Gabes Downstairs
10/10 - Chicago, Illinois - LiveWire Lounge with softviolent, Eitarnora, Buried in Yellow
10/11 - Detroit, Michigan - Ghost Light
10/12 - Cleveland, Ohio - The Beachland with Istvan Medgyesi, Space Funeral
10/13 - Buffalo, New York - Hickory with Uniflora, Lara Buckley
10/15 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Kung Fu Necktie with Destroying Angel, Janelle, David E. Williams
10/19 - Brooklyn, New York - Matchless with Blacksage
10/20 - Peterborough, New Hampshire - The Wreck Room with Obsidian Tongue, Dwell in Moonblood, Soul Remnants, Necronomichrist
10/21 - Revere, Massachusetts - Sammy’s Patio with Obsidian Tongue, In Human Form, Dwell in Moonblood, Marrowfields
10/22 - Montpelier, Vermont - with Obsidian Tongue, Dwell in Moonblood
10/23 - Portland, Maine - Space Gallery with Obsidian Tongue, Dwell in Moonblood
10/25 - Baltimore, Maryland - The Depot with Take to the Woods, Drone Theory, Jerome Depp, Come and Get it
10/26 - Richmond, Virginia - Champion Brewing with Shadow Age
10/27 - Durham, North Carolina - Arcana with Meg Mulhearn, Knives of Spain
10/28 - Roanoke, Virginia - Art Rat Studios with Divine Circles
10/29 - Asheville, North Carolina - Revolve with Meg Mulhearn
10/31 - Johnson City, Tennessee - Bano de Artaud with Green Elder
11/2 - Murfreesboro, Tennessee - Media Rerun with Terminus, Auric
11/3 - Bowling Green, Kentucky - FFOYA house
11/4 - Nashville, Tennessee - TBA
11/5 - Birmingham, Alabama - The Nick with Stella Amor, Ben Millburn & Sunglass Mustache
11/8 - New Orleans, Louisiana - Siberia with Meschiya Lake, Bosques de Fragmentados
11/9 - Shreveport, Louisiana - Dalzell House
11/10 - Texarkana, Arkansas
11/11 - Austin, Texas - Lost Well with BLK OPS, Oxford Coma
11/12 - Denton, Texas - Nebulae
11/15 - Albuquerque, New Mexico
11/16 - Flagstaff, Arizona - Flagstaff Brewing Co.
11/17 - Los Angeles, California - Hi Hat with Skyeater, Deathkings
11/19 - Oakland, California - Golden Bull with Sastruga
12/1 - Portland, Oregon - High Water Mark with Burials, Born a lot, Tawuse Melek