CVLT Nation’s Top Eight AVANT GARDE Releases of 2015
EIGHT – BLACK WING – …Is Doomed
At its core, …Is Doomed is essentially a concept album dealing with a summer Dan Barrett was deathly ill. If Dan Barrett is Black Wing and this is the subject matter, the symbolism behind the album’s title, track names, and artwork become pretty obvious. With this in mind, the album’s dreamy tone takes on a decidedly different feel. This is the dreamlike haze of one quietly accepting their own death. Despite drifting it’s way into darker, heavier, territory at times, the majority of …Is Doomed sounds like a maze of uplifting, electronic, dreampop-esque synth compositions. Ranging from simplistic and ambient to heavily layered and noisey, the album is an emotional ride. The dreamy tone of the music and quiet, melancholic delivery of the vocals starkly at contrast with the bleak, depressing lyrics concerning the acceptance of one’s imminent demise.
SEVEN – THISQUIETARMY’s Anthems For Catharsis
Eric Quach as been at it for a minute now. Not knowing who he is or what he does is pretty much unacceptable at this point, especially if you follow a blog like this one. Ten years are not an eternity, but its a whole lot if you spent them making some of the best drone/experimental music in the world released on labels like Denovali, Aurora Borealis,Consouling Sounds, Tokyo Jupiter, Alien8, Destructure, Basses Fréquences, Land of Decay,Orange Milk and more, and working with artists like Aidan Baker, Year of No Light and further. In essence, THISQUIETARMY is at this point one of the cornerstone projects in drone today, and a project that always yields some of the most heavy, glorious and ambitious ambient-experimental music out there today. Anthems For Catharsis is Quach’s latest work and contains some of the most melodic and accessible songs to date.
That said, you really need to interpret what “melodic” means in this context. With song lengths never surpassing the ten minute mark, but each one internally covering a ton of ground in style and moods, it is safe to say that Anthems For Catharsis is one of the most powerful, stripped-down, and driving records ever put to tape by the Canadian artist, and one that has not only reaffirmed his worth as one of the best contemporary drone artists, but to all effects also turned him into one of the best, post-metal and neo-shoegaze artists out there. This album is tough as a rock, extremely abstract and really hard to define, but it goes by FAST, in an unrelenting way, and flows like few experimental albums do. That’s why we say it’s melodic. You don’t frequently encounter such visionary and abstract works that are so easy to absorb and listen to, and that is Anthems For Catharsis’s absolute strength. The drum machines that pound this record like a hail of steel are in essence omni-present, and provide a constantly driving force for the album, a heart beat that makes it a powerful and lively cybernetic beast, a trait that renders it a sprawling and menacing force to behold. The record has very few fat and a ton of muscle.
SIX – L.O.T.I.O.N. Digital Control And Man’s Obsolescence
“Militarized Urban Zone(Redux)” sounds like what I imagine war sounds like. The whistle and clamor of chaos pushes only for confusion, and awakens weird memories whilst forming new nightmares. It is hard not to hearken these sounds to something I would be obsessed with in the 90s, but I’m sure everyone, especially the band, are bored of such comparisons by now. “Ultimate Wound Kit” is as industrial-driven as the rest of the record, but has two of the catchiest guitar parts on the whole album. The songs use repetition, not out of laziness, but to create an almost trance-like state that feels ritualistic.
FIVE – PINKISH BLACK Bottom of The Morning
When it comes to getting a darker vibe from their music, Pinkish Black do not hold back anything. The rage of “Special Dark” gives way to a dark wave mantle, which the band seems very comfortable taking on. The more gothic element comes in different forms, and can appear at times with a touch of psychedelia to it, as happens with “I’m All Gone.” At other times, though, it can take on a more ethereal manifestation, which comes into view on “Burn My Body,” something that acts as a nice contrast to the more horrific approach that the band seems to be so keen on acquiring.
It is not just the darker vibe of Bottom of The Morning which dominates the music of Pinkish Black. The psychedelic element is equally important in establishing the mood of this album. The hazy effects of the opening track reveal the deep connection to psychedelia, with the delirium of “Special Dark” revealing a very trippy side of Pinkish Black, which is further expanded in “I’m All Gone” widening the vision of the band. In a more melancholic manner they unfold “Everything Must Go,” while in an impressive way they are able to construct a desert-like scenery for the beginning of the title track, verging on the boundaries of a dreamlike ambiance.
FOUR – LOCRIAN Infinite Dissolution
Infinite Dissolution is a far more complete experience than Locrian’s last offering –a similar yet decidedly unique journey that fills in all the holes you didn’t realize were in their last album until listening to this one. The album is a conceptual masterpiece that tells of the painful reality of extinction, and as such the whole album flows seamlessly through like one long song, each song a separate chapter in the novel of the end. The overall tone is one of mournful yet aggressive contemplation. While Return to Annihilation simmered and unsettled, Infinite Dissolution attacks and rends, its message being more violent and urgent than the last. The album builds upon the strong base left by its predecessor – warm, droning synth and expansive black metal riffs entwining together to make deftly composed art in each –but Infinite Dissolution takes a more aggressive tone in its approach. Post rock, shoegazey drones and dark ambient soundscapes return from their previous works, but the guitar performances across this album are somehow at the same time more rhythmic and accessible than on previous releases, yet more experimental. Warm moog synth creates a far more organic noise than many of their contemporaries, and droning feedback produces a base that surprisingly accessible guitar riffs dance over, further punctuated by a more prominent, focused vocal performance than ever before, courtesy of Terence Hannum. Rounded out by a few guest performances and some unconventional instrumentation, the powerful Infinite Dissolution makes itself heard.
THREE – Sunn O))) – Kannon
The constant presence of Sunn O))) makes it very difficult to comprehend that it has actually been six years since the band released their previous full-length, Monoliths & Dimensions. The main reason for this, of course, is their continuous collaborations with great acts such asUlver, Nurse With Wound and Scott Walker, as well as their huge release of official bootleg live performances. And that is only for Sunn O))) as a whole, because both O’Malley and Anderson have recently participated on a plethora of other acts as well.
As is the norm with Sunn O))), Kannon features a plethora of guests, including Attila Csihar (Mayhem, Void ov Voices), Oren Ambarchi, Randall Dunn, Steve Moore, Brad Mowen and Rex Ritter. Kannon, named after an aspect of Buddha, was conceived as a musical entity with roots founded in the previous works of Sunn O))), mainly Soused and Monoliths & Dimensions. However, it is also the first album of Sunn O))) in a fair amount of time to feature a more solid metallic approach than its predecessor.
“Kannon 2” sees the composition moving closer to the proto doom/drone self of the band, dwelling in the era of White One, White Two and Black One, with instances going as further back as OO Void. The band follows a similar path with “Kannon 3,” the final track of the album, finding shelter in the dissonant domain of their drone self, with the guitars taking on a cacophony, moulded through the tormenting feedback, acting as a mind-bending tool in that instance.
TWO – CROWHURST S/T
After making myself familiar with their back catalog, I was expecting something very different when I sat down to listen to Crowhurst’s newest endeavor. Despite being cautioned by their frontman that this release was not as noisy and a bit more grounded than their releases in the past, I could not break my preconceived notions of the group. Thankfully, despite being very surprised upon listening to the album, I was not at all disappointed. The noise is still present, near constantly. But it is subdued and not the primary focus. Rather, the crunching grains of sound are used as emphatic exclamations to the rest of the ethereal sound of the record. Despite Crowhurst describing their music as experimental black metal, the ideas the term conveys do the music they produce no justice. The manage to live up to the previous legacy that they established with their noise music in a relatively short existence, while at the same time bringing in nuanced elements of post-black metal, sludge, and psychedelia. The experience is overall very atmospheric and beautiful, yet bleak and harsh all at once.
ONE – THE BLACK HEART REBELLION People, when you see the smoke, do not think it is the fields they’re burning
What is so cool about TBHR is that it is inherently difficult to pinpoint them to a specific genre, or even a specific type of sound. As big a part as the dark folk tones might play in their music, you cannot simply call them a folk band. In the same way, no matter how important the ambient side of the band is, you cannot just call them an ambient band. Ambiance plays a big role in People, when you see the smoke. Usually, it is not warm and welcoming. In the case of “Rust,” the scenery is dark, cold and destructive, reaching a towering nature when the distortion becomes overwhelming, leading to the development of hallucinations. Similarly, “Violent Love” does not have a much friendlier approach, with the mystical character of the track overflowing and the melodic lines creeping up in the process. “Om Benza” gets on a minimalistic path, building up slowly towards a more horrific and imposing atmosphere, aided by the wailing drones and bursts of percussion.