Review: Software Bondage – Plàigh (self-released, Apr 16)

Deep in the forgotten underbelly of some hulking abandoned factory, dust-covered machines and rusting contraptions inexplicably whir back to life. The windows of the factory are still dark, but they’re now imbued with the soft amber glow of aged light fixtures as the fragile foundation of the building shakes and trembles from its renewed activity. This is the scene immediately evoked by “Dallsaichean Uinneig,” the first track on Software Bondage’s newest album Plàigh, as its shadowy soundscape of layered industrial ambience and nocturnal drone begins to seep from under the cellar door. The track sets the stage well for the rest of the album, which develops an atmosphere that’s at once cozy and unsettling, sort of like Spiral Insana or Jun Konagaya’s Travel. “Snìomh” follows the auspicious opener with harrowing ritualistic headspace—the human element introduced with the down-pitched vocalizing is initially off-putting, but it resurfaces near the end of the track to produce a surprisingly sublime conclusion. There’s no such respite on “Laoidh,” which despite being the album’s shortest track also manages to be its most frightening. Here, the reverb-laden sounds of heavy machinery dragged across a concrete floor echo the cavernous, Sisyphean movements of Remnants’ unforgettable Empty Ruin before a decay-marred choir recording is left to play for the emptiness. Everything culminates with “Lùb Dùinte,” a monstrous, nearly half-hour-long closing piece that embodies the slow, majestic collapse of the massive factory where our journey started.