Review: The Lethal Temple – Being the Contents of an Unsigned Letter (Petite Soles, Sep 3)

Being the Contents of an Unsigned Letter is one of those rare wall releases that is both so loud and intense that it drowns out not just external sound but brain activity as well, and so seductively hypnotizing that it just seems to fade into the background at times. These paradoxical effects often occur simultaneously, somehow; I find myself so mesmerized by the detailed auditory craftsmanship by the trio of Scott Kindberg (A Woman’s Glove and others), Sean E. Ramirez-Matzus (Pallid Mask and others), and Thomas Puopolo (Forests of Brittany and others) that I lose track of time and eventually even the fact that I’m listening to it, despite the fact that my ears are being mercilessly ravaged all the while. All three artists are associated with the Pittsburgh-based Black Leather Jesus collective, but here the S&M imagery is traded for something more enigmatic and poetic in the invocation of the “unsigned letter” idea: thoughts and communication externalized, physicalized, but without an explicit source. The exact aspects of meaning lost as a result of this omission certainly vary from case to case, but a clear universal casualty is the remote channel of intimacy that letters open between correspondents. To reclaim any semblance of that would require either deducing the true author or attributing the message to someone else entirely, both options being processes that often involve examining elements of the letter beyond its contents: the ink and stationery used, handwriting, the return address (or lack thereof), etc. This compact digital release is plainly attributed to The Lethal Temple, so it in itself cannot be the titular letter, nor can the tracks themselves since they are also identified as “contents.” Is the rest—the analog to the aforementioned superficial characteristics—just the things that happen in our heads as we listen? Do the blazing stampedes of crunching distortion fuse with the bizarre brain patterns they incite to form some sort of intangible, Derridean communicative construction, which must be unsigned because each person who hears the music is themselves both author and recipient? Probably not. This is some fantastic noise though.

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