Brb>voicecoil – Alms of Guilt

Posted: 26 September 2020 in Albums
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Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, the full depths of dark ambient works only reveal themselves at a certain volume and this is very much true of brb>voicecoil’s Alms of Guilt. Played at a low or even regular volume, it sounds very much distant, rolling rumbling, and rather low-impact. Turn it up, and it’s a different album and a completely different experience.

The first composition, ‘Cost of Redemption’ is disturbing. Clanking, clattering extraneous noises thud like the boots of troops searching a ruined building against a backdrop of a hovering hum of a nuclear wind. There’s no specific dialogue, and of course, that’s part of the appeal and purpose: it’s very much about the listeners projections, about reception, and from my seat, I feel a growing paranoia. Nothing specific, nothing I can pinpoint, just a sense of awkwardness. What do you do with that?

The nine-and-a-half minute ‘Seven Swords to the Heart’ is dark ad foggy, imbued with a certain sense of mysticism, shifting from groaning drones to clattering yet heavily-muffled percussive sounds like pieces of wood bouncing in a barrel over rapids, over and over and on and on… it’s the sound of bruising, of cracked ribs, of physical battery.

‘Welcome Back to the Days of Book Burning’ is dark, dank, and doomy, a rumbling drone of brooding lower-end dark ambience. It feels almost medieval in its dark, oppressive shadowy tones, but the fact seems to be that we’re so far off the dystopia the title suggests. And it’s here that it hits: sitting alone once again in my little office – what would for most other people be the spare bedroom – it’s dark outside and I haven’t seen anyone socially for days, but news channels and social media are bursting with updates on how police shut down an anti-mask rally in London this afternoon. Anti-intellectualism has reached a new peak in the rising tide of opposition and antagonism toward ‘experts’ and even health workers attending emergencies. This, seemingly, is what we’ve come to. And it’s a bleak prospect. I had previously come to the opinion that, in the age of the Internet, there was no excuse for ignorance, as all information was available at the click of a button. But so is misinformation and propaganda, and these seem infinitely more popular. Such a realisation is painful. He dark sludge-filled wreckage of this track provides no comfort or solace, but an ideal soundtrack to these thoughts.

‘Buried’ is gnarly, a subterranean earthwork of a composition, while the nine-minute ‘The Truth of my Demons’ returns to the basement of gloomy rumbles, muffled bangs of doors, and a swashing swampy gloop and grind hat has no real sense of trajectory.

There is so much depth, so many layers… and so much grumbling, rumbling mid-to-low frequency that bubbles, swirls, and eddies like so much discomfort in the gut. And like so much guilt, this is a noisewerk that nags away without any real sense of direction, or even idea.

Alms of Guilt is the swashing soundtrack to a ship run around, with no sense of space or direction. It may not be explicit about it, but it’s an album of our times. Tense, claustrophobic, oppressive, this is the soundtrack to the world now.

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