I love a title that conjures strong visual imagery, and The Infected Mass certainly fits that criteria. Calling to mind scenes from The Walking Dead alongside images of London during The Plague and of cholera epidemics, The Infected Mass evokes a skin-crawling sense of the dirty, the dingy and the dangerous.
Constellation is a label with a low-volume output and a focus on quality and consistency, with The Infected Mass being only their second release of the year.
By way of some background, Those Who Walk Away is the new project of Winnipeg-based composer Matthew Patton, best known for his widely-acclaimed musical score (and Emmy Award-winning collaboration) Speaking In Tongues with the choreographer Paul Taylor.
The press release pitches The Infected Mass as ‘a haunted and profoundly emotive requiem of minimalist composition and a powerful work of avant-garde sacral music, executed with elegiac beauty and restraint.’ It is, indeed, sparse, deeply haunted, and haunting. Dank rumbles grind beneath ominous fear chords and drifting notes which evoke the disembodied voices of angels. Large portions of the album contain no music to speak of, instead forming delicate and deeply evocative atmospheres which infiltrate those personal mental spaces which are rarely touched.
There are significant mood variations to be found here: while ‘Before the Beginning’ is a dark, murky and challenging piece, ‘First Degraded Hymn’ presents a certain lightness of spirit. It is, of course steeped in a detached, abstract sense of the melancholy, the wistful: it evokes a joy tempered by sadness, the kind of sadness which the passage of time and a growing sense of isolation elicits. There is a deepening sense of sadness which trickles through counterpart pieces ‘Second Degraded Hymn’ and ‘Third Degraded Hymn’, which seems to plot a trajectory downward through elliptical sonic helixes mirroring invisible, subconscious psychological processes, to the darker recesses of the reflective mind.
The sample-sodden narratives of ‘First Partially Recorded Conversation’ and ‘Second Partially Recorded Conversation’ crackle against hums, drones and a bleak wind which blows through a disconsolate landscape.
As the final interlacing tones of the album’s last track, ‘After the End’ – a bookending composition which works alongside rather than opposite to ‘Before the Beginning’ taper away, one is left contemplating the sensation evoked by this subtle and nuanced sound-work. A certain creeping sadness, hollowness and absence lingers in the silence which remains.