Lingua Ignota – Sinner Get Ready

Posted: 26 July 2021 in Albums
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Sargent House – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Here in England – and Britain, as elsewhere further afield – division is rife: views and positions have become increasingly polarised and entrenched in recent years, and man, it’s fucking ugly. From here, it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate just how much uglier it gets when fervent religiosity is added to the mix. And while the white, Christian west expends boundless energy vilifying Islam, much of this feels like so much hypocrisy. For a religion that officially preaches for its adherents to ‘love thy neighbour’, Christianity is prone to being particularly harsh and judgemental, and as the album’s title suggests, there is a strong element of Christian judgment at the heart of the songs here.

The press release describes Sinner Get Ready as ‘an abrasive, unsettling portrait of devotion and betrayal, judgment and consequence, set in the severe and derelict landscape of rural Pennsylvania, a neglected and interstitial region deeply embedded with a particularly austere brand of Christianity, and where Hayter currently lives.’ It goes on to explain: ‘The rigorous and almost procedural site-specificity reflects an obsession with externalizing that site as the locus of great personal pain – pain that is the Will of that region’s presiding God; an atonement for sin that only the blood of Jesus can cleanse’. There is a certain specificity about the songs collected here, but, as is so often the case, the personal radiates out to become the universal, and however specific the subject and inspiration on a personal level to the artist a work may be, true art resonates far beyond.

Sinner Get Ready is an album that proves, demonstrably, that you don’t need noise or volume to achieve levels of devastating intensity. It’s spectacularly simple, raw, and at the same time complex and layered, not least of all in the vocal arrangements, and also hits like a tsunami. Sinner Get Ready is an intensely spiritual work, but it’s also quite simply an intense work, and one that conveys the power of the word of the Lord, that conjures fire and brimstone and that forewarns sinners- and non-believers – what they can expect.

The album begins gently enough, with rolling piano and strong but melodic vocals, operatic and elevating. But it doesn’t take long before things grow dark and disturbing on the nine-minute opener, ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’. The delicate, ethereal, choral evocations are rent with crashing, violent blasts of piano – fist-smashing thunderousness. It hits hard.

There is something of the musical about this, at least in terms of there being a narrative thread and a sense of characterisation running through it. It’s certainly more than simply a collection of songs: there is a sense of sequence, of progression. ‘I Who Bend the Tall Grass’ is sparsely arranged around a soft organ drone, and over which Hayter’s vocal cracks and breaks with force and emotion, and harmony melts into warped dissonance. ‘He has to die! There is no other way!’ she barks, rough and raw, before an atonal chorus of voices and drones carry it away.

Contrastingly, ‘Many Hands’ is traditional folk with an element of roots American country. It’s also dolorous, painful, its many-layered beseeching vocal, and ‘The Sacred Linametnt of Judgement’ is similarly folky, with a rich earthiness that speaks of tradition and evokes bygone times. Yet, as ‘Repent Now Confess Now’ brings into sharp relief just how alive some of those traditions still are in certain places, and these aren’t just small pockets, but huge swathes, and while the deep south is most commonly associated with hardline Christianity, it’s a trait of many rural areas. It may be 2021, but fire and brimstone and divine retribution are still dominant in these places, and what may seem strange to an outsider – like the material for a Louis Theroux documentary – this shit is real, and people live and die by their beliefs. There are some well-selected, well-placed samples, too, which accentuate this.

The songs on here soar, but rage with intensity, trembling with the fear of God and the weight of judgement and the threat of punishment. It would be hard to hear Sinner Get Ready and not feel moved in some way or another.

AA

701993

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