Posts Tagged ‘trauma’

Septaphonic Records – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Dystopian Future Movies’ ‘difficult’ second album, Inviolate, took a full three years to land after debut Time, their third, War of the Ether crashed in after just over two, and it’s an immense sonic documents that the Nottingham trio have compiled in this time.

Back in the spring of 2020, I wrote of Inviolate that ‘Everything about Inviolate is bigger, bolder, more pronounced and yet more nuanced, shaper and more keenly felt and articulated. And every corner of the album is imbued with a sense of enormity, both sonic and emotional: Inviolate feels major-scale, from the driving riffs to the heartfelt human intensity.’ That amplification is again true of War of the Ether. Dystopian Future Moves’ previous releases amply demonstrate a band with both an interest in and a knack for the cinematographic, the dramatic, so it stands to reason that they should extend these focal elements here.

This time around they’ve drawn inspiration from little-reported but truly horrifying events which took place at the former Catholic-run Tuam Mother and Baby Home in songwriter Caroline Cawley’s native Ireland, where 796 skeletons found in the grounds after suspicions were raised by a local historian in 2012. As the press release explains, ‘to hide the shame of pregnancy outside of wedlock, women were sent to homes like this all over the country – forcibly separated from their mothers, many of the children died in infancy due to neglect, and some were trafficked for adoption to the US. The country is still dealing with the fallout from these discoveries.’

War of the Ether is not a joyful record. It is, however, a record with real depth, and imbued with real emotion, as well as an aching sense of tragedy. And, as has been established as Dystopian Future Movies’ signature style, it’s an album which balances riffs and restraint, and is built on atmosphere and menace. They promise an album that ‘explores a wide range of genres from prog and shoegaze to doom-metal, noise-rock and folk,’ and don’t disappoint.

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War of the Ether opens – somewhat daringly – with the ten-minute spoken word crawler that is ‘She From Up the Drombán Hill’. For the most part, it’s sparse and spare, tingling guitars gently rippling behind the narrative – but there are bursts off noise, and it swells and grows and when it kicks in, it kicks in hard with piledriving riffage. The dynamics absolutely blow you away – exactly as intended. ‘Critical mass’ is appropriately titles, starting out with a haunting, echoed clean guitar and delicate drums rolling in the distance as a backdrop to Cawley’s aching, melodic vocal as it stretches and soars, and ‘The veneer’ is a magnificent slow-burner that builds to a shimmering sustained crescendo which unusually fades at the end. Against the weight of the subject matter and brooding instrumentation, it feels somewhat frivolous to focus on a fade, but it serves to highlight the many ways DFM are outside trends and exist in their own space. This is never more apparent than on the dreamy but serrated buzzing shoegaze of the title track.

For all its darkness, War of the Ether is a remarkably accessible album – not on account of its myriad hooks and killer choruses, but because it is simply so strong on melody and so utterly captivating. And because, as they demonstrate admirably on ‘No Matter’, the album’s shortest and most overtly structured song – they do have a real knack for snagging the listener with the combination of tunefulness and megalithic riffery. And then, the final track, the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘A Decent Class of Girl’ brings together all aspects of the album in a powerful accumulation of sedate, strolling psychedelia and climactic crescendos that optimise the impact of both.

Magical, majestic, and immensely widescreen, the scope of War of the Ether is simply breathtaking, and leaves you feeling stunned. Awesome in the literal sense.

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Fabrique Records FAB073 – 17th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

As the press text summarises, ‘Cusp is a collection of compositions taken from the soundtrack for the film STRESS by Florian Baron. The feature-length documentary gives voice to five young veterans, their experiences and trauma’. It was never going to be light or upbeat, and immediately, the sounds emanating from the speakers are unsettling, disturbing: blasts and reverberating crashes echo all around over slow, elongated drones, and ‘It’s Happening’ washes into the slow ebb and flow surges of synth that form ‘Them or Me’.

It may be good to talk, but those of us who haven’t been there simply cannot relate, cannot compute or comprehend the meaning, the pain, the anguish. It’s a world beyond and it would be a mistake and an insult to pretend otherwise. Anything, from sympathy to empathy feels like an underestimation and an undersale, a devaluement. Perhaps it’s an act of solipsism: the suffering in the mind of another is unknowable. This renders the territory Cusp and the film it soundtracks difficult on a number of levels.

Trauma is by no means entertainment, and while I haven’t seen the film, Irmirt’s handling is impressive in its subtlety, and it’s understandable why she was awarded the German Documentary Film Music Award in 2019. The jury remarked how in her soundtrack, she ‘dissolves the boundaries between sound design and musical composition in a virtuoso and at the same time self-evident way, thus creating a sound cosmos that, through uncompromising reduction, generates brutal knowledge.’

The best soundtracks are always understated, and compliment, rather than dominate the visuals they accompany, and Cusp, which takes fragments of the soundtrack as a whole – with eight tracks, half of which are only around the two-minute mark, this is a distillation of a broader experience, and it works well.

It is dark, unsettling, but nothing is overdone. And that’s why it works.

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Jana Irmirt - Cusp