Writing about releases that are entirely emotional, visceral experiences is difficult for me, which is part of the reason I started this site in the first place: to hone in on the actual qualities of the music that produces these effects. Albums like Daydream, and other works that would be best described as post-black metal or “blackgaze,” are personally very hit-or-miss, a volatility I’ve parsed down to the way in which the softer, prettier, more melodic elements are incorporated into the atmosphere of darkness and isolation. In the case of Misertus’s debut album, the integration is absolutely seamless; blanketing blasts of anguished howls and pounding drums birth breathtaking stretches of densely layered guitar harmonies and invigorating major key motifs, which are either skillfully reeled back into the shadows or end the track on a happy note (as is the case with “Duskwinds”). The attention to detail in solo projects like this always amazes me, and the multi-instrumentalist known only as Tomas crafts each of the eight pieces with a deep reverence, creating clouds of cathartic emotion that are astoundingly immersive—I could get lost in the opening moments of “Fragility” until the end of time.
This abstract but evocative bit of poetry is one of the few things that adorns the page for Ash Charge’s debut tape, and the unfamiliar surroundings it describes are every bit as lethargic, psychedelic, and mysterious as the music itself. The four pieces hover around ten minutes each, and every moment is steeped in swampy, humid warmth, queasy rays of light, and gorgeous decay. Ash Charge’s fluid sonic collages flow with patience and purpose, paradoxically constructing a lush, developed environment from the most fragile of materials. On just the third track, hypnotic looping tapes groan out a glowing melody, barely audible recordings of an unidentifiable rustling sound lurk beneath the murk, and a sublime guitar fragment marred with lo-fi scuzz harmonizes with contorted speech samples—and from the way in which these elements are combined and sequenced a completely enrapturing atmosphere is formed.
The cover art for Daniel Ryan and Matthew Crowe’s split C27 is quite vibrant, but not in an overwhelming way. The colorful fragments of drawings and other bits and pieces evoke more of a sense of whimsicality, scattered-ness, hasty sketching; and the music itself continues in that realm, albeit taking a different form for each artist. On Ryan’s side, which opens with a frenetic maelstrom of scrabbling drum machine patches and hyperactive noise segments, the collaging of sounds seems natural and self-reliant. By this I mean that everything acts in relation to its surroundings: the restless rumbles of granular synthesis and claustrophobic contact mic drags (these are just guesses; identifying any of the abstract sounds here is a stab in the dark) flit around the stereo field like flies trapped in a jar—an abandoned experiment. Though Crowe’s three pieces are equally unpredictable, there’s much more of an authorial presence to the proceedings. Almost taking the form of a radio play, percussion samples and field recordings and other oddities are glued together in a strict sequence, and though many of the elements at work feel natural on their own the overall atmosphere is one of artificiality (in this regard I’m reminded of A World of Difference), something that becomes especially apparent with the arrival of piercing slices of feedback in “2.”
In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of a wall composition is the way in which it materializes. Some slowly fade in, others break through with a deafening blast of volume, etc.—and these different types of inception are often closely associated with the presence of the wall itself. In the case of Wine-Dark Sea, the newest release from Texas-based artist Sean E. Matzus as Thewhitehorse, the wall’s entry into the listener’s consciousness takes the form of a swelling, enveloping motion, the dense folds of crackling rumbles seeming to curl around and surround. The force of the noise comes from below, like a thriving bonfire, but the claustrophobic effect created by Matzus’s meticulous layers is one more reminiscent of a large body of water—ergo Wine-Dark Sea. Matzus’s unyielding sea of sound is as dark, overwhelming, and terrifying as its title, a lush wall that takes a subversive route to achieve the unmistakable feeling of being buried or engulfed: one of aquatic fluidity.
This one is about how the most earnest emotional expression can be found amongst the furthest edges of “music.” A collection of works, improvisations, and excerpts from artists whose creations are removed and subversive yet profoundly personal.
00:00. Daniel Löwenbrück – “Gebet in den Wind” from 1800m (Recordings for the Summer, 2014)
05:25. John Collins McCormick – “5” from One Bone in the Arm (Pan y Rosas Discos, 2018)
07:21. Shots – excerpt from A side of Up Front (Bánh Mì Verlag, 2016)
10:20. Jean Tinguely – excerpt from B side of Bascule VII (Manhood, 1994)
12:14. Yeast Culture – “Feral Fleeces Falling in Flannel Flurries and Fit for Felting” from Shit on a Shingle (Petri Supply, 2013)
14:56. Hardworking Families – “Illy Alley” from BA / LS / BN (Beartown, 2016)
20:51. Hangjun Lee & Martin Tétreault – excerpt from A side of Film Walk (Crustacés, 2017)
23:18. 010001111000 – “okasi yarou” from lmof (Vitrine, 2015)
28:47. Alyssa Festa – “websdr_recording_2017-07-06T22-05-51Z_3924.8kHz” from Alyssa Festa (A R C H I V E, 2018)
37:20. JS Hogan – excerpt from Ahh, I See Pan (Y.A.L. Sounds, 2016)
I think that glitch and data-based music will always be enthralling to me not only because of its volatility, but also due to a certain surreptitiousness that it always seems to have, like it’s not something that’s meant to be heard by human ears. Even when processed using direct action by the artist or composer, as is the case with Jukka-Pekka Kervinen’s modified sound chips, there’s a sense of innate unpredictability, a feeling that the abstract textures at work can never be completely controlled. Crossover Distortion revels in this unavoidable digital whimsy, shakily constructing itself upon a ever-shifting base of piercing zaps, synthetic rumbles, and plasticky drones, all of whose permanence is constantly in flux. There’s no real overarching movement or structure to any of the six ambiguously titled tracks, but here the words “directionless” and “ambling” are not negative descriptors; adding any more order to these inherently erratic sounds would introduce a new, human-induced artificiality, stifling that which gives the music its enrapturing uniqueness in the first place.
I don’t know much about the occult; the extent of my knowledge of dark, unholy rituals is limited to what I’ve seen in folk horror movies. But in my humble opinion, I’m pretty sure “Invoke,” the opening track of Pharmakeia, does exactly what its title implies. Amidst cavernous darkness conjured by droning tremolo guitar and propulsive blast beats lurks a terrifying energy, one that almost dissuades me from listening because I feel like I’m allowing it to escape. This newest proclamation from the mysterious Prava Kollektiv is the debut release by the project Pharmakeia, the details of which are expectedly sparse, but the music speaks for itself. From the first nightmarish minute of “Invoke” the self-titled tape is a harrowing stumble through an atmosphere of pure evil—and I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I can’t think of any other way to describe the hellish angularity of the riff near the end of “Worship,” or the inhuman wails that pierce the darkness of “Calling,” or the ending of “Request” which sounds like a literal nightmare. Pharmakeia isn’t just dark; it feels completely saturated with malevolence, steeped in shadow and turpitude, and is an entirely unforgettable experience.
Pharmakeia is available on cassette and (eventually) LP here.