- Intensely meditative organ pieces.
- "Spectacle Of Ritual," the opening track of Kali Malone's The Sacrificial Code, begins with 58 seconds of single-tone pipe organ. Out of the soft, breathy warble, a minor-key melody materialises in slow motion, cascading gently with metronomic precision. The piece circles around the phrase for ten time-bending minutes before returning to the stark drone with which it began. You can hear every textural, mechanised detail of the organ, housed at Stockholm's Kungliga Musikhögskolan (Royal College Of Music), because of its close miking during recording. (Absent is the cavernous church-filling reverb that tends to accompany organ recordings.) While The Sacrificial Code sidesteps the traditional sonic characteristics of such religious sites, its clean minimalism and graceful melodies conjure similarly powerful emotions.
Malone is part of a cohort of theory-minded composers including Sarah Davachi, Kara-Lis Coverdale, and her occasional collaborators Caterina Barbieri and Ellen Arkbro, inspired by the 20th-century minimalists. If there's one thing that unites them, it's that they often create music with deliberately limited musical palettes. Last year's Organ Dirges 2016-2017 signalled the potential of Malone's organ compositions. Sombre pieces such as the swirling "Locus Of Repetition" were dictated by metronomes and number matrices, an approach Malone described as "extremely meditative." On The Sacrificial Code, Malone has refined her playing to an even greater level of discipline.
The musical variety of The Sacrificial Code is limited even when compared with Malone's past records. 2016's XKatedral Volume III featured just electric guitar. The following year's dream-like Velocity Of Sleep had a few more instruments (including viola and double bass), but was similarly minimal. Malone's latest feels resolute in its abstinence from instrumental baggage. Its uniformity, as well as the intense slowness to Malone's performance, help make the tracks feel as if they're merging into one another, prompting a strange, temporal disorientation. Like some of the most affecting drone music, The Sacrificial Code is imbued with almost magical, time-stretching properties.
"Hagakyrka Bells," the exception to the album's rigorous method, is a chiming minute-long introduction to Malone and Ellen Arkbro's live performance at a church in Gothenburg. Over the subsequent three tracks, spread across 45 intensely concentrated minutes, the pair stretch the compositions to cosmic proportions while somehow retaining the intimacy of the studio-recorded work. Listen closely, though, and it's possible to make out the faintest trace of the performance's church environment. Reverb echoes softly from the bright notes of "Sacrificial Code (Live In Hagakyrka)" unlike the cleaner early portions of the album.
Malone once described her knotty relationship with the pipe organ. "In my mind, it was still so connected to the traditions of the church," she said. "It wasn't yet sonically liberated from that particular setting and culture for me." Sonics aside, Malone seems to have embraced other elements of Christian religion, from its language (in track titles like "Fifth Worship II") to her own ascetic compositional system. By simultaneously disavowing and embracing the church, Malone has crafted a record of rare heft. The plaintive melodies that sit at the core of The Sacrificial Code often feel like they're stretching into eternity.
01. Spectacle Of Ritual
02. Sacrificial Code
03. Rose Wreath Crown (For CW)
04. Sacer Profanare
05. Litanic Cloth Wrung
06. Fifth Worship II
07. Hagakyrka Bells (Live In Hagakyrka)
08. Prelude (Live In Hagakyrka)
09. Sacrificial Code (Live In Hagakyrka)
10. Glory Canon III (Live In Hagakyrka)