Immersive drone ambient pieces, made to inspire moral reflection.
Stern expresses these political ruminations using a complex and chilling series of beatless, wordless tracks that command focus—his vision of ambient differs from Eno-led notions of the music as soft wallpaper. Occulting Disk serves a more confrontational, instructive purpose. Knowing the anti-hate messages at the album's core, it could be viewed as an amulet to ward off hate and bad energy, its unrelenting honks and bellows stirring up the hopeful sounds of protest. Stern's use of repetition is powerful and carefully considered, making space for deep thought and reflection.
Pockets of silence strengthen this concentrative quality. The opener, "Disappearance / Reappearance," sends out a duo of ear-splitting foghorn blasts, an allusion perhaps to the album title's maritime reference—occulting light is a navigational beam used by ships. Thick walls of insectoid buzzing on "Occultation 2" urge you to step outside yourself, reeling you in with ugly-beautiful effect.
The LP summons a raft of mutated sounds from Stern's "audio virus" set-up—an array of electronics that has included homemade devices, tape echo machines, theremins and analog ring modulators—that feel eerily familiar and sinister. Case in point: "Occultation 4," whose creaking, dissonant drones give the impression of dive bombers circling each other, while the weeping, warbling synths on "Occultation 1" are as evocative as human tears. The album's crushing "Black Transit Of Jupiter's Third Satellite" is a tidal wave of distortion, suggesting a final evacuation of dark energy. Stern's gift is to make that feel both unsettling and immersive.