Review: Caïna – Gentle Illness (Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Nov 1)

As an avid consumer of experimental art, I come across a lot of music in the form of abstract sonic amalgamation, much of which is constructed from quite disparate sound objects. That being said, though, few pieces have made me as strangely unsettled as “Wellness Policy,” the sparse introduction to Gentle Illness, multi-instrumentalist Andrew Curtis-Brignell’s newest album as Caïna. There’s nothing particularly immersive or captivating about the track, which is perhaps why it’s so effectively disturbing; in and around the relatively unassuming sounds of what sounds like an old therapy session recording and somber piano lies that loud, grating, completely emotionless cloud of electronic squall, deafening and defiant in its opacity, which makes the sudden excursion into much more conventional black metal once “Your Life Was Probably Pointless” hits even more startling. Between Curtis-Brignell’s furious bouts of shadowed growls, layered guitar lines, and surgical drum machine blasting (the latter of which definitely reminds me of Vessel of Iniquity’s brilliant Void of Infinite Horror from earlier this year) are more in the vein of those elusive atmospherics, but something the entire album is concerned with is the careful construction and release of tension, from the cathartic assault after three minutes of building unease in “Your Life Was Probably Pointless” to the synthetic, rhythmic mood piece of “Canto IV” and fluid dynamic structure of “My Mind Is Completely Disintegrating.” Buried beneath the noise are largely indecipherable lyrics with subject matter “ranging from the UK’s lack of mental health provision to extraterrestrial psychics via demonic possession and the metaphysics of suicide,” but the overall tone of despair, anger, and horror is more than intelligible.