Review: Breathe Heavy – Hypothermia (Cruel Symphonies, Jan 28)

From the mysterious, unbroachable wilderness that is upstate roars the relatively new Cruel Symphonies imprint, which since November 2020 has offered a finely curated but still eclectic catalog of noise music. Breathe Heavy’s Hypothermia, one of two in the label’s most recent mini-batch (alongside the long-awaited—by me, at least—physical edition of VIVIAN’s excellent Abduction Plot) is somewhat relevant to reality at the moment, given that many of us are cursing the incessant, bitter cold daily in recent weeks; but the scathing pair of bifurcated walls, each of which covers two of the four stages of the titular condition, are hardly concerned with the everyday bite that dries hands and runs noses. This is music for the precipice of death, an iced-over end. Fatal freezing is said to be far from the most painful way to die—in the final moments, most of your nerves have shut down, and you apparently just blissfully “fall asleep”—but Breathe Heavy chooses to survey all of the time leading up to that: panic and desperation, subzero chill like so many needles in every pore, the horrible sensation of feeling your very thoughts slow to a stop. It’s not exactly a sudden process, but the first slab in “Stages 1 & 2” certainly kicks in with brutal abruptness, a thick current of chunky distortion crunch that’s made all the more punishing by the few seconds of quivering blank tape that precede its entrance. There isn’t much nuance to the sonic progression between stages, but the artist really had an incredible core blast going here, so I don’t mind hearing it in minute variations. Wait, “don’t mind”? No. I love it. Is it just me, or is it kinda cold in here?

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