Thursday, March 11, 2010

"Rain of Ashes" and "Territories" Review from Animal Psi

10 Mar 10 - Vinyl, CD, Review
The attentive listener will notice the vivid emergence of Locrian from behind the grey fogs which otherwise populate the ruined landscapes they imply. With varying parts drone, doom, black metal, power electronics, and post-punk, the duo of André Foisy and Terence Hannum have defined their own inexchangeable position in the field with epic gestures toward a comprehensive vision of blackened science-fiction. With each release the details of this world become more pronounced, an ingratiation which develops through heightened musicality.

Entering a fever pitch with these two latest long-players, the pair are figured at first as specters (an identity improvement from their earlier position), phantom powers who command the materializing bodies of guitars and keyboards. Unfortunately too elongate for the vinyl treatment of the latter, ‘Rain of Ashes’ makes diligent use of every square minute of the 60 minute disc, both in compositional richness and structural novelty. Recorded in a single session without overdub, the tracks reveal an impressive loose-tight combination of multi-modal, shared vision and a young pair really hitting stride in lesser-orchestrated collaboration. As in previous works, guitar plumes generate weight and height while synthesizer passes through effects for texture and rhythm. However, the revelation of riffs and melodic grids puncture this mass to create a dialectical monster of hairy, howling detail and dense grind. Distilled to a central hush of layered reverb, the soundtrack’s ominous hook is reduced to a single telephonic scale like a razor which cuts through the electronical storm which these two exert impossible control over. Again wanting for vinyl over CD – and here I should add this is a repress from a cassette release, with a beautiful jewelcase booklet of photography – the pair offer an anachronistic nod to BF labelmate Nicholas Szczepanik and “chiasmus” with the second, reverse-track “Sehsa Fo Niar”: were the title not too gauche of a giveaway, the uncanny disturbance of inhalation which comes with the most abstract of backwards recordings breaks the brilliance of this deconstructive move as it lingers too long on the track as a whole. An object which like some molten tool box cooled to a single clump in the snow, the track is reproduced in its (backwards) entirety, unable to tell us about the tools which were inside, or even the shape of the container. As a sound object, this of course works nicely to hit various constructions from a different slant – more than merely the flipside – but despite this one-off insight, it can only tarnish the power of this towering pair.

And then they were a band. With huge contributions by Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), and Blake Judd (Nachtmystium), the pair of Foisy and Hannum are joined by drummer Andrew Scherer for three of the six tracks to fully realize the metal fetish which informs their distinct brutalism. Assembled by four labels, ‘Territories’ is not only a high watermark for Locrian but a remarkable good-faith gesture by several of the scene’s most vital patron-labels. Akin to the darkest of Coil’s private press, “Inverted Ruins” begins the disc with a single blade of head-splitting feedback quickly offset by a watery melody of synthesizer strain - the maneuver then reversed, reciprocated, cauterized into arbitrary chunks by a Whitehouse laser – and tattered, immediate percussion, all while Solotroff adds a wonderfully-dissembled John Balance sermon (lyrics included in the liner notes). Lamont’s saxophone smoothes out with sustained tones and murmuring strings in the cold-ass passage “Between Barrows”, a magnificent deception leading into the twin central peaks of “Procession of Ancestral Brutalism” and “Ring Road”: the former a deteriorating black metal of sheet-metal crash and howling vocals ala Wolves in the Throne Room, sooty with tape effects, its ten minutes are matched by the latter, a busy erasure of heat-swollen synth sequences and distorted guitar phased in trick wall of sound texture. Clean lines of guitar noir form the disc’s second interlude like a test track leading into the crackling transmissions which begin “The Columnless Arcade”, accumulating layers of noisy curtain which part midtrack to expose, like a secret less shameful than indulgent, a belligerent prog-metal of pull-offs, sustains, and woven notes - Hannum’s shredded vocals like a wraith beneath the glassy finish of whole tones of Locrian guitar and synthesizer which finally reveal themselves in full. It’s exceedingly rare to anticipate an album exploding onto the scene without some jaded sense of fluke connections or passing fancies but only by an essential power and brilliance which cannot be confused. ‘Territories’ is one of those moments, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving outfit. And if this isn’t the moment which does it for Locrian, I’m probably not alone in feeling relief that they’ll be ours for a little longer. On black vinyl, limited to 500 copies. Highest recommendation. (Basses Frequencies CD, 9€ HERE; and At War With False Noise/Bloodlust!/Small Doses/Basses Frequencies LP, $15 HERE)