Posts Tagged ‘dark’

Hallow Ground – 10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Breathing is important. If this sounds flippant or facetious, well, perhaps it is a little, but there is a more serious undertone. It’s something we do subconsciously, and something we take for granted will just happen as our brain keeps the bellows pumping. We only really notice breathing when something disrupts it, it becomes laboured, or we’ve exercised hard.

And yet the importance and benefits of controlled breathing as part of meditation, for managing anxiety, and for dealing with panic attacks is widely documented and promoted. But even for those who have been taught the techniques, how often do we remember to deploy them at moments of peak crisis? Moreover, beyond those specific settings, breathing properly is something that’s chronically neglected as we slouch over our keyboards, taking short, shallow breaths that fail to fully expand the lungs and oxygenate the blood stream.

The ever-innovative and ever-intriguing Lawrence English’s Hallow Ground debut finds the composer working ‘exclusively with an organ for four compositions that are exercises in »maximal minimalism,« as their creator himself notes in a nod to Charlemagne Palestine, who coined this term.’ The liner notes explain further that ‘While it seems somewhat fitting that those four pieces based on a steady flow of air were conceived and recorded in a situation of accelerated standstill caused by a respiratory disease, the Room40 founder is not so much concerned with capturing the zeitgeist than rather incorporating the spirit of time itself. »It is a record about presence and patience,«’.

Patience is indeed required when listening to Observation of Breath. It stands to reason that there is a concerted focus on elongated, quivering drones, and the first of the four pieces, the ten-minute ‘The Torso’, with its dank, dark rumblings and extraneous interference carries sinister allusions, particularly when reflected upon in context of the album’s cover art. The torso may well house the lungs, the system of breathing, but all too often finds reference in stories of murder and dismemberment, and we’ve all wanted to strip off our own skin at some point, right?

The theme continues its trajectory in the titles of ‘A Binding’ and ‘A Twist’ which follow. These are short pieces, both sparse, droning works that are overtly organ, with the latter in particular taking the form of a gloomy funereal church recital. There’s nothing like a funeral to make you contemplate your breaths, and to consider how many you may have left in your body. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we ignore and avoid thinking about breathing: the moment we notice it, be it short or irregular, we worry, in the same way as we panic about palpitations. To become cognisant is likely to observe an irregularity, a difficulty, in a most fundamental function, and rightly or wrongly, doing so reminds us of our mortality. We hate to be reminded of our mortality: it terrifies us half to death. The irony.

In context, the album’s finale, the twenty-minute title track, which occupies the entirety of the album’s second side, on which all elements of the previous three compositions coalesce and distil into something monumental and epic. Not a lot happens: it’s simply a quavering continuum of sound that undulates and eddies slowly, unfalteringly, less like a stream than a crawling flow of larva. But to go with the flow is to fully engage with the album and its slow-shifting textures. It’s perhaps around halfway through ‘Observation of Breath’ that I finally realise I am becoming aware of my breathing at last. Conscious, I slow it, inhale to full expansion through the nose, hold, then equally slowly release out through the mouth.

Observation of Breath is a well-realised exploration of expansive territory in altogether smaller detail, and one that offers more the more you allow it to become a backdrop.

AA

HG2103_Cover_English_Final_def_def.indd

16th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Instead of submitting to the endless flow of media panic and hunkering down in his house during the pandemic, Stuart Chalmers went rather more off-grid, spending the last year in a camper van, exploring the Pennines and North York Moors.

The Heart Of Nature is the last in the series of the Swarmandal-focused albums, a celebration of nature’s elements, inspired by this period of a closer proximity to nature. Stuart recounts how the experience brought him closer to ‘the natural world and its rhythms/cycles’, and given him ‘a sense that nature can be calm but also intense and full of violent energy’. He goes on to explain that ‘The making of this album through the autumn/winter with the change in weather along with my laptop dying, the heater failing and the van breaking down has been a tough experience,’, adding, ‘it’s been one of the hardest albums for me to finish’.

I’m no advocate of the training mantra ‘no pain, no gain’, but do often find – and I speak from experience here – that the art that emerges from the most challenging of conditions is not only the most satisfying to produce, but so often has the greatest impact and resonance. The heart and soul that goes into a work shines, amplified, in the output.

The six pieces on The Heart Of Nature are based on the elements and raw materials occurring in the natural world: earth, wood, metal, fire, water, air. The first of these, ‘Earth’, powerfully captures the turbulence and variability of nature, and is dominated by a grumbling, rumbling, the shuddering subterranean sound of tectonic displacement, that gradually fades as a slow-picked guitar emerges and a hesitant sun rises over a barren. Scene. Beneath the supple chimes and grating discord and scraping drones that lumber and lurch. It sounds, and feels, immense, something bigger than sound alone, than the artist alone, and it’s an intense and difficult seven minutes that introduces the landscape of the album.

‘Wood’ is more of a collection of found sounds, with animal calls and chattering birds, pattering feet, paired with extraneous sounds and a clattering, clanking beat that’s some way from nature. Things become quite tribal, the metallic chanking speaking more of humankind’s relationship with nature than of nature itself, while ‘Metal’ creeps into dark ambient / industrial territory, with ominous whisps drifting around and the clanking precision – but it’s on ‘Fire’ things intensify, with the crackle of flames yielding to the harsh clatter of industrial percussion. There are hissing surges of sound rushing like gas bursting from ruptured pipes, and it’s not until ‘Water’ that the album introduces some sense of calm following a long journey navigating troubled spaces.

This only highlights the idea behind the album, that of the violent energy of nature. We seem to have idealised nature as that idyllic country setting, as something that merely exists for our wellbeing or profit, and in doing so diminishing the forces of nature – typhoons, cyclones. tsunamis, earthquakes, blizzards, floods. We are in denial somehow over the extent to which we are at nature’s mercy. We build flood defences, structures to prevent longshore drift and the collapse of cliffs, but ultimately, we’re powerless against time and tide.

‘Nature doesn’t need us, but we need nature’, Chalmers remarks, and I can’t help but agree: nature would in fact be better off without us, and the acceleration of climate change is concrete evidence of this. If nature destroys us, it’s because we’ve brought it upon ourselves by fucking with nature – and if one thing is clear, nature will always win. Whatever damage we’ve wrought, it’s simply suicide. The planet will still exist long after we’ve vacated, long after it’s inhabitable by human life. Humanity will eventually go the way of the dinosaurs, but nature will still be here.

The emptiness of the final track, the seven-and-a-half-minute ‘Air’’ is the perfect summary. The wind buffets against everything in its way and sparse notes hang in post-rock drift. It’s a beautiful piece of music, but it’s also sparse and melancholy, and with a certain Western twang, it carries the bleakness of the wild frontiers, reminding us of the adversarial relationship between man and nature, and the need to respect the wonder.

AA

a0127569496_10

24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Pink Turns Blue have been around practically forever, having formed in 1985, and while they may not be widely regarded among the first wave of goth acts, they very much emerged from that milieu as a duo with a drum machine, and what they’ve achieved over so many of their peers while lingering on the peripheries is longevity. Having re-emerged in 2003 after an eight-year hiatus, they’ve continued to mine the classic post-punk seam that’s distinctively theirs, due in no small part to Mic Jogwer’s vocals. And of course, what goes around comes around. Their return in the early years of the new millennium was well-timed, coinciding with the point at which the post-punk renaissance bloomed with the likes of Editors and Interpol breaking through. There were of course countless also-rans, and bands who emerged but failed to fulfil their promise, but nevertheless, time has proven that the style has remained current, and the darker the times, the greater the craving for dark tunes, and this is where Pink Turns Blue really prove to be as contemporary and vital as ever.

Their eleventh album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered during lockdown in their Berlin studio, and the first thing that strikes about Tainted is just how bleak it is. It’s achingly majestic, it’s magnificent, and possesses some wonderful hooks and choruses, but there’s an all-pervading atmosphere of sadness, of melancholy that’s draped over every beat and radiates from every note. Glimmers of positivity are dampened by an air of resignation, optimism doused with defeat. The next thing that soon becomes apparent is just how consistent the album is. It’s not only all killer, but had a remarkable cohesion. It’s true that that for cohesion you might interpret sameness, and they do operate with a fairly limited sonic palette. One suspect this is at least in part the result of the material being the product of three guys in a studio without any external input or interference.

But working within such limitations places the focus on the songwriting, on the tunes, on the delivery, instead of throwing in all sorts of fancy stuff.

The guitar to opener ‘Not Even Trying’ evokes the into to ‘Severina’ by ‘The Mission’, and it’s got that same solid four-four strike on every beat bassline that Craig Adams made his signature back in the early days of The Sisters of Mercy, and which has become something of a defining feature for so many gothy post-punk bands, and it makes the song an instant grab. ‘I’m not even trying’, Jowger admits blankly, as if admitting defeat from the outset, and setting the pessimistic tone that echoes through single cut ‘There Must Be So Much More’. It’s a song of yearning, of questing, and of determinism, and a song Editors would have likely killed to have penned for one of their first two albums.

This isn’t an album of depression, but the sound of downward-facing defeat, of staring at the ground and wondering where it all went wrong. ‘Never Give Up’ encapsulates the conflict, the inner turmoil of staring emptiness and defeat straight in the face and realising there are only two choices. But to never give up is not a positive thing, merely the stubbornness that comes from not knowing what else to do.

The bass and guitar are melded together in a tunnel of chorus and reverb, and tied to a relentless drum track, and it’s gripping and compelling. ‘Why Not Save the World’ has heavy echoes of mid-80s Depeche Mode and would sit comfortably on a She Wants Revenge album, while ‘I’m Gonna Hold You’ comes on like New Order as covered by A Place to Bury Strangers, with a nagging bass and brittle guitar that grips hard.

Just as Robert Smith can make a skippy pop song sound tear-jerkingly sad, so when Jowger sings of the joys of ‘a new day’, it’s with a wistful melancholy that aches deep and you feel something tug in your chest as you swallow it down, that inexplicable sadness. ‘Listen to the bumble bee’ he sings on ‘Summertime’, and it’s carried a way on a chiming jangle of guitars that are so wistful, while the tone is of deep nostalgia. A perfect sunny day can have its joy marred by the realisation that it isn’t quite as perfect as sunny days of a time gone by, happy, carefree times that will forever be trapped in the memory as magical, but now faded and never to be recreated.

The song structures are comparatively simple and straightforward, and built around repetitive chord sequences and guitar motifs, and there’s nothing fancy about any of the playing – which is absolutely key to the success.

Any fan of Interpol or Editors would do well to explore Tainted – but then again, so would any fan of not only post-punk, but anyone with ears and with a heart and soul. It’s a masterful work in music of the mood. The mood is low, the mood is sad, and this is an album of real depth that speaks and resonates beyond the immediate.

133936

6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not always easy to remember – what you’ve said to whom, what you’ve written before, if you’ve really experienced something or simply dreamed it. You’d think it would have become easier with not really going anywhere or speaking to anyone for a year and a half, but in my experience, the opposite is true. Everything blurs. So if I’ve mentioned any off this before, if I’ve touched on how electrogoth releases often clump together, or how genre tropes can so often be so much meh, then I apologise, but only a little. Reviews are, after all, personal, a personal response to musical release, and objectivity only cuts so far., meaning that this personal response, well, it’s all spilling from a review-a-day brain, dayjob and parenting and the confusion of every day melting into the next. It’s been a relentless barrage of bad news in the media, as well as from friends and relatives. By no means has all of the anguish and suffering been attributable to the virus – more often than not it’s been collateral resulting from lockdowns and a sustained sense of panic. We’re biologically designed to experience fear in short bursts. Fight or flight. To be trapped, immobile, powerless, is beyond comprehension, and there is no space to process grief and trauma in a normal way.

It’s against this backdrop that Eric Kristoffer developed the new unitcode:machine album, Themes For A Collapsing Empire. It’s very much an example off utilising a creative outlet as a form of therapy, with the blurbage describing Themes For A Collapsing Empire as ‘a journey through the mind of Eric Kristoffer after a series of tragic events that 2020 brought. It explores a path of loss and regret, and struggling to cope with such stressful personal events while also trying to endure a global pandemic’.

Electro-industrial isn’t a genre one immediately associates with emotional resonance, but with Themes For A Collapsing Empire, unitcode:machine really strike a level that balances thumping beats and melodies that convey the human aspect of the lyrical content. That said, the stark, mechanised percussion and cold synths highlight the bleakness of it all – and by it all, I do mean it all. Step back and survey the scene: August 2021 versus two years ago. It’s a different world, and so many have lost so much – not just loves ones, but connections, livelihoods, sense of self and place in the world. Where is it all heading? Where will it end? Will it end? With climate change an inescapable backdrop to societies which have never been more divided, how do we return from here? Do we? Can we? It’s not just an empire that’s collapsing, but – not to be overly dramatic – human civilisation itself. Themes For A Collapsing Empire feels like an essential soundtrack to this existential anxiety. Stark and dark, it’s reflective, paranoid, gloomy, and it’s very much song-orientated, with kicking choruses being a defining feature.

‘Falling Down’ is a clear standout, but there are plenty of strong tracks and easy single selections alongside it: Themes For A Collapsing Empire packs in the hooks and solid choruses, but without being remotely lame or overtly commercial – and that’s a real skill. Everything just flows, while at the same time punching you in the face.

With nine tightly-structured songs all clocking in under four-and-a-half minutes, Themes For A Collapsing Empire feels like a concise statement, and an album with strongly-defined parameters and an intense focus, with the end result being all killer.

AA

035223

Bizarreshampoo – 11th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The last time we heard from Ukranian purveyor of brutal noise, Vitauct, it was the scouring noise abrasion of Breaking Bad back in the spring of 2020; before that, it was the split album with Crepuscular Entity in December 2019. It turns out there’s a whole lot of activity that’s happened in between, including a fair few split releases, and this latest offering is yet another, this time with Georgia-based ცოდნის მფლობელები, an artist who, in his own words ‘uses field recordings to create tracks that try to communicate different states of mind’, and explains that within his work, ‘there is a certain tension and expectation next to a piano taken from some informal performance.

The release is available on double cassette and CD, although the way it’s laid out would also lend itself well to four sides of vinyl, with each artists contributing two fifteen-minute / side-long compositions, alternating, with Vitauct occupying sides A and C, and ცოდნის მფლობელები occupying sides B and D.

The first piece, ‘Search’ is perhaps more ‘Destroy’: a tearing wave of harsh noise that simply blasts the sense for quarter of an hour straight with barely no perceptible variation, it’s practically HNW, bar some subtle shifts and reverberations of pain echoing in the background. It howls and screams, but mostly it’s like the sound of ground zero of an atomic bomb, and it just goes on, and on, without mercy, shredding the air and blasting away at the organs from the inside.

‘თვალთვალი’, the first of the two tracks from ცოდნის მფლობელები, offers a quite different tone and atmosphere. The sound is murky, swampy, almost subaquatic in its drowned muffledness, and there’s a low, slow, rhythmic rise and fall like a tidal current that drags you along in surging increments, pulling, then releasing a little, before pulling again. It’s dense – suffocatingly so – and gurgles, dark and abstract while creating some kind of sensory deprivation that becomes more intense and unnerving the longer it persists. Everything slows. Nothing happens. It feels as if time has stalled, and you’re hanging in suspended animation, unable to speak, unable to move, incapacitated and simply floating, paralysed. You start to find interest in the most granular detail, in the same way you wonder if you need to go over parts of a wall you’ve just painted because you can’t be sure if you’ve missed a bit or it’s just drying faster than other areas. You wonder how long you will remain trapped here, if the nightmare will ever end, if, indeed, you will ever escape to the surface. It’s a long and torturously slow fifteen minutes, and when it does finally end, you’re left feeling limp, drained.

And then it’s back for round two: with ‘Uncertainty’, Vitauct brings a crackling fizz of overloading static and digital distortion that sounds like your speaker cones are torn. It’s a tonal / textural combination that’s almost guaranteed to disrupt the equilibrium because it simply sounds like everything is fucked – both your equipment and your hearing – and sets a churning in the pit of the stomach. This could perhaps be some kind of auditory trick of sorts that sets the listener off balance, like an infection or damage in the inner ear. It’s painful, but as an example of devastating mid-range harsh noise, it’s outstanding.

‘იდეოლოგიის მეტრონომი’ is the final piece, another fifteen minutes of murky, bubbling babbling. This time, it feels speeded up, and the bubbling babbling sounds like a large gathering of people, chattering excitedly underwater, while a stream of analogue synth streams and stammers in a sustained state of agitation. It’s an unheimlich, otherly experience that’s unsettling and uncomfortable – which is a fair summary of this release as a whole.

If its hour duration seems daunting, in some respects I suspect that’s part of the intention: this is not a release for noise casuals, but that hardcore who have real staying power and probably something of a masochistic streak. For such a niche genre, the amount of material it has yielded – and continues to yield – is astronomical, and it’s not always easy to differentiate the quality form the lethargic, but as we’ve come to expect from Vitauct and his pairings, this is strong stuff.

AA

a3215801437_10

Ventil Records – V026 – 4th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Ultimately, it’s apparent now that social media changed everything. But one thing specific was the relationship between artist and audience. Historically, the distance between the two was clear and also integral. The last, ten to fifteen years hasn’t only seen that separation eroded, but a certain expectation that the artist should engage directly with the audience via online platforms, be it social media or a blog maintained as a part of their website. As a marketing tool, it makes sense, but it’s hard not to feel that something has been lost along the way. Is it right that the artist should be made accessible, or that there should be an expectation of there being some kind of quite direct interaction? It’s not even necessarily about maintaining a persona or a degree of enigma: many artists are introverts by nature, and don’t create art to stand in the limelight in front of it. Many artists create to escape something, or simply to expel or have an outlet for that which they cannot convey by any other means.

I’m often not particularly communicative myself. I don’t want to talk about it, whatever it is – assuming I even know. I simply want to write or make ‘music’. But I did, recently post on Facebook about how I often berate myself for not being as productive as I would like to be. People were largely sympathetic, but few, it would seem, truly ‘got it.’

One artist who truly does understand that eternal restlessness is polyartist Maja Osojnik, and her quest for creativity is unstinting. Having been involved in several visual exhibitions, a live stream, and various compositions in recent months, she’s also recorded an album with collaborator Matija Schellander to deliver the debut Rdeča Raketa (Red Rocket) album.

This album is both very ‘now’ and also very much an expiration of the human condition, specifically its failings and how communication is key, but very much prone to failure.

As the liner notes outline, ‘…and cannot reach the silence deals with the current world of misunderstandings, communicating past each other, willingly and unwillingly overlooking or ignoring each other’s meanings via various fast-paced forms and platforms of communication; and, with that, the tightening of incompatible parallel “realities.” It explores forms of violence; physical and verbal, external and self-inflicted. It explores forms of power; the dangerous thin line between giving power to and giving power over oneself, and forms of subjugation and addiction on both societal and, more significantly, on interpersonal levels. “… Look at us! Beasts, bottomless pits, never to be full! To be fulfilled. Glued onto each other in sweat, a never-ending pain and evenly spread, at all times…”

They go on to ask, ‘In those dark, dystopian lyrics, full of questions, such as “What is being said and what stays unspoken? Who does it refer to? Who is protecting whom? For what reasons? Who is being addressed or what needs to be considered?” the wish, the need and the struggle for self-empowerment, honesty, love and reconciliation is exposed or, at the very least, nourished.’

All of this resonates, and deeply. Only yesterday, I had been considering how depth of conversation seems to have evaporated. People have neither the time more the attention. Conversations were often cut short or curtailed or otherwise hurried back in the days of the office, but that was nothing compared to thee standard one- or two-line text exchanges, comments shared by Skype or Teams. We – collectively – don’t really ‘talk’ anymore. We’re paranoid, time-deprived, stressed. We’re also so polarised and entrenched in our oppositional viewpoints that there is no debate, only division. And with social media, 24/7 scrolling news and infinite notifications from apps, there is no respite – ever. There is no silence, wherever you may seek it.

The three longform compositions on …and cannot reach the silence are heavy and rich with atmosphere. The first, the ten-minute ‘the night is spilling across the room…’ approaches by stealth. A low, slow, ominous drone, intercut with aberrant thuds and squelches. An artisanal, wordless voice drifts in, and it’s haunting, ghostly, otherworldly. What does it mean? The lyrics, sung in a detached tone, are stark, bleak: ‘You were unspoken / She was born already broken….’ Eventually, the words drift out into a wordless undulating hum and the world slowly disintegrates.

The disintegration continues through the lumbering lurch of counterpart composition ‘…like gasoline’. Its slow, yawning rhythmic intonations evoke the heavy grind of SWANS circa 1986, relentless, booming, droning, and it’s the perfect backdrop to Maja’s semi—spoken vocal delivery. She’s robotic, inhuman, empty, even when articulating human emotions – ‘I want to you so bad, I want you so bad,’ she repeats at one point. But is it want, or is it need? Something less about choice or desire, and more about emotional survival? ‘I am tired’ she repeats, over and over, in tones ranging from weary to frustrated, defeated to angry, and you feel it – you know it. The articulation is comparable to one of Bruin Gysin’s permutational poems: only, instead if rearranging the words, the emphasis changes in order to find different meanings of the same words. This one resonates. The tiredness saps your life and saps your soul, and you feel the differences between ‘I’m tired, please leave me be,’ and ‘I’M TIRED! FUCK OFF AND LEAVE ME ALONE!’

The third and final composition, ‘waiting it out’, is fifteen and a half minutes of ominousness. The vocals are all but submerged, a babble beneath the undulating drone and trilling. Synths crank up and head for take-off as they stray into the heavily phased world of early industrial and power electronics, a wheezing wall of wailing synths puffing and groaning and bleeping and whirring and all converging in a seething sonic mound. Towards the end, it ventures skywards in a succession of laser-guided rockets arcing into the sky.

…and cannot reach the silence is an album with an immense range, and an understated intensity – and a magnificent artistic achievement.

AA

KT.eps

Hallow Ground – HG2104 – 13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There are few things in life you can really rely on, but Hallow Ground is one of them, if you’re seeking music from the darker side. The clue’s pretty much in the name here: this is pretty dark. Of course it is. It’s also quite an interesting and unusual blend of styles and sounds, for while this forty-minute, seven-track work is predominantly instrumental and ambient in its leanings, it pushes wider and deeper than that, to span a range of territories, with often quite unsettling results.

DarkSonicTales is a project by Rolf Gisler, who was granted an artist residency in a 300-year-old farmhouse in the Swiss countryside in autumn 2019, by the label. How this sort of thing comes about, I’m not really sure, but there it is. I am a shade covetous of artists who get dedicated time and space to work on their art in whatever medium, because the simple fact is that in ordinary life there never seems to be enough time. For anything. And creativity requires headspace and time, both of which are rare and precious commodities.

Rolf seems to have made the most of his time, and the result is an album that’s varied in terms of form and tonality, which makes for a fascinating listening experience. From the mellow chiming of the short intro piece, ‘Info Pandemie’, to the eight-minute drone-swirl of ‘Best Buddies’ that drags the album to a slow-simmering conclusion in a bilious fog of sonic drift, DarkSonicTales is a deeply exploratory piece.

‘I Still Believe’ is a long, slow-burning, low-key, low-tempo gothy tune, where Gisler whispers in a baritone croon over a delicately picked guitar that’s hauntingly atmospheric and pinned down by a distant but insistent drum machine, its cracking snare cutting through the sonic haze.

‘Best Buddies’ brings the finale, and there’s a stuttering heartbeat drum flickering like a palpitation against the slow, majestic musical backdrop.

In some respects, it’s a challenge, simply because however much the album leans towards electronics, the way the instrumentation is used is so widely varied this feels like an album that’s harder to accommodate far more than it actually is. Somehow, the pieces of the jigsaw fit together.

AA

a4220900238_10

Misanthropic Agenda – MAR057 – 7th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The title of Dave Phillips’ new album is quite explicit: it’s an album dedicated to death. He explains this in the liner notes, ‘not death the spectre that installs horror and fear in many (in the western world), nor death the enemy of the (western) for-profit medical system, but death as part of a cycle, like birth. death the only certainty in life. dying, like living, as something that can be done well – or not. death also something that can be a release, a relief, a liberation, the end of suffering, a freedom.’

The album, which he directs the listener to play as one continuous session, was inspired by his father’s illness, deterioration and death, and being his carer for the 15 last months of his life, and was, poignantly, sent off to press in early June 2021, when his father died. This clearly makes To Death an incredibly personal work.

Perhaps predictably, To Death is a dark album. Predictably, not primarily because of the subject matter, but because my last encounter with Phillips’ work – 2014’s Homo Animalis – was pretty dark, too, although he’s done a hell of a lot since then. And for Phillips’ observation that death can be ‘a relief, a liberation, the end of suffering, a freedom’, death is rarely seen as a cause for elation or celebration in the human psyche, particularly in the west, where there is a deep-rooted fear of death, and a culture that promotes prolonging and preserving life at all costs, regardless of quality. Death is perceived as a loss, something devastating, and to be avoided at all costs, and I’m forever presented with news items and comments on social media about people who have died in their 70s or 80s – particularly during the pandemic – having been ‘taken before their time’. But when is their time? Everyone has a time, and everyone has to die of something, and the state of denial about the inevitability of death is psychologically detrimental.

But as the title of the album’s second track says it so succinctly, ‘fear of death = fear of life’. A life lived in fear of death is no life at all. Of course, an awareness of death is something else entirely. You have to take some risks to know you’re actually alive. How many people say on their death bed that they were glad they did nothing in case it killed them? There’s a clear theme to this album, both sonically and in the tiles: ‘everyone dies, not everyone lives’ is the perfect encapsulation of Phillips’ ethos. It also manifests as a dolorous booming drone like a ship’s horn juxtaposed with maniacal shouting, distorted and raw, and very much in the vein of Prurient. As such, Phillips articulates beyond words and reaches into the very core of the psyche.

Ominous drones that hum and buzz hover unsettlingly and uncomfortably, eddying around whispered words, barely audible during the ten-minute first track, ‘a cycle completed’. What is it about whispers in darkness that we find so unnerving? Gradually, ponderous bass notes and dubious creaking sounds enter the mix as the drones become more tense and eerie.

The third piece, ‘to death we all go, the sooner the better’ is filled with agonised shrieks and howls and pain and anguish – and the title conveys a sentiment I can truly buy into. Humanity is a scourge, and the worst of all plagues on the planet.

Listening to the album in a single sitting is certainly a powerful experience, and there is some dense, challenging noise, and things grow darker and doomier as the album progresses: a stark piano note chinks out and is quickly submerged in a wheezing drone and more muttered narrative on ‘real catastrophe’ which plunges deep into underground rumblings. ‘We are the virus…’ he whispers amidst a soup of spectral voices. ‘The real catastrophe is that humanity continues.’ Phillips’ apparent misanthropy is hardly unjustified: in the scheme of all eternity, it’s taken us but the blink of an eye to render countless species extinct and decimate countless ecosystems. In nature, other species don’t destroy their own habitat. Even viruses and parasites evolve to achieve maximum replication without destroying their hosts. It’s simply not in their interests. The common cold is the most successful virus of all time because it’s highly contagious but rarely kills its host, other than by complications. The more hosts available, the times it can reinfect, the less work it has to do to propagate itself.

Siren-wailing undulations lead us to ‘the other side’, a groaning, wheezing croak of a composition built on repetition before finally, the title track crawls to the finish – and having made it, I can die happy.

Some speculate that death is not the end, but the likelihood is that it is, and regardless of spiritual belief, physically, it is. And why should that be such a bad thing? All things must end, and it’s a matter of when, rather than if. Live life: accept death.

AA

dp to death digi w newest corrections

Swedish/American dark electro/industrial band, Normoria has unveiled their new video, ‘Land Of The Rich’ from their latest EP, Voyage.

The band say: ‘Land Of The Rich’ is the new music video taken from our latest EP, VOYAGE, and it highlights how incredibly divided the US currently is. While the rich keep getting richer, and most Americans are struggling to get by in a country in distress. Booming vocals, punkish guitars and intense bass are part of what makes this track one of this dark electro Industrial band most energetic and in your face songs!

Watch the video here:

Normoria is an American/Swedish band whose seductive sound is a fusion of many elements: primarily dark electro and rock-Industrial. The music is a big blend of dark styles, amplified by Johan’s rumbling bass and Gustav’s enigmatic guitar, as well as their charismatic frontwoman Angel Moonshine’s versatile vocals, and dramatic aesthetics. Expressive power, hauntingly catchy melodies, and a combination of obscure energized sounds, are signature features of the band that combined make Normoria distinct and outside of the traditional.

64329b38-b244-de41-ec07-2e083c06a104

Khatacomb – 7th July 2021

Christopheer Nosnibor

Some artists clearly thrive on collaboration, throwing themselves fully into the possibilities and potentials ideas from other quarters offer. Ukrainian experimentalist Kojoohar, aka Andrii Kozhukhar, is clearly one such artist, with the self-explanatory Split– a collaboration with fellow Ukrainian Acedia and New Zealander Acclimate – is his second release of the year so far.

Split is something of a celebration of darkness, and a coming together of artists with fundamentally divergent styles, and its finding a home on Ukrainian label / webzine Khatacomb is no coincidence, given its commitment to ‘covering various manifestations of Ukrainian post-industrial music, from dark folk to experimental electronics, and art in general’. It’s an immense departure from anything Kojoohar has done before, with his 2019 and 2021 collaborations with ködzid goo exploring the realms of industrial and avant-garde hip-hop.

The way Split is split is interesting in itself, with four solo Acedia pieces, one Acedia and Kojoohar composition, and a brace from Kojoohar and Acclimate, making it very much an album of three segments – and as such, split.

In context, the vocal element of Acedia’s contributions come as something of a surprise: against minimal, stark electronic backing, with snaking percussion and strong snare sounds that cut through, Acedia delivers a vocal that’s glacial yet warm in its human vulnerability. Ugh, comparisons feels like lazy journalism, but serve their purpose: Depeche Mode, Ladytron, and New Order’s Movement coalesce in the tone and style on these chilly tunes.

‘You’re already dead’ she intimates in a blank monotone on the cold as ice ‘Cocoon’, and the insularity closes in as each song progresses: ‘Slaughterous Game’ is as dark and dangerous as it gets, so cold that it strikes chill to the very marrow. It’s bleak but bold, and the four Acedia cuts feel like an EP in their own right.

I can’t help but feel that this release would work best in physical format, either as n album with the Acedia tracks on one side and the rest on the other, or as a pair of 12” to give each segment clear separation.

Acedia with Kojoohar conjure some darkly dreamy drone with ‘Forget my Name’, with its rolling, woozy bass and whipcracking snare that slashes away at a slow pace, and dark gets darker with ‘Enwomb’, the first of the pieces jointly forged by Kojoohar and Acclimate. It’s nearly ten minutes of ambient drone that billows and rumbles while treble bubbles and bounces eddy this way and that amidst the grumbling mid-range fog. Sparks fly and stutter incidentally but without effect, and the horizon grows broader in the face of this vast vista despite the grumbling discomfiture and whispering in tongues. It’s unsettling, a squirming, churning, twisting and turning with no breaks in which to find a position that’s comfortable. The same is true of the final track, the second Kojoohar and Acclimate cut, and it’s a cut that cuts deep: serrated edges burr and saw away, and tribal percussion thuds away insistently against subdued but wince-inducing trails of feedback.

None of this is comfortable; none of this is easy. But it’s a contrasting set that strains the edges of convention to create something quite, quite different.

AA

a4099095908_10