IRM – Closure CD Malignant Records 2014
With an underpinning shrill drone it takes a mere 19 seconds and four ultra-slow, echoed floor tom strikes for the new IRM album to explode in full force of what the project are recognised: i.e. layered noise/ drones of Eric Jarl, thick atonal bass guitar playing of Mikael Oretoft and the agonised dual vocals of Martin Bladh. Yet by equal measures by the time the album concludes its 50 minute span, a diverse array of soundscapes and moods have been explored, thus illustrating the expanding niche IRM have carved out in the experimental post-industrial underground. Although at the outset of their career IRM were an adherent to a direct power electronics sound, over the course of four main albums they have evolved into something altogether different and now encompass a far more abstract, experimental and artistic take on the core abrasive elements. ‘Closure’ is the fifth formal album from the group and features nine untitled tracks (…or could be considered as nine parts of a single work), and is evidently the third and final part of a trilogy which commenced with 2008’s ‘Indications of Nigredo’ EP and continued with 2010’s ‘Order4’ album.
After becoming familiar with the structure and flow of ‘Closure’ two elements clearly come to the fore. Firstly the album functions as a focused collection of individual tracks and secondly it includes the use of prominent instrumentation such as floor tom/ tympani percussion (by Ulrik Nilsson), atonal cello strings (by Jo Quail) and even sections with recognisable bass melodies (…whereas previously the bass guitar has been predominantly used as a weighty abstract layer to bulk up the lower end of sound). Also intriguingly a couple of album passages evoke a ‘high art’ theatre styled atmosphere through the narrative based spoken vocals. The most prominent example of this is third track consisting of shimmering metallic textures, ticking clock, theatre audience noise and moody twilight bass melody, as Martin narrates a surreal dreamlike theatre scene which appears to deal with the murder or execution of the self (…possibly relating to an attempt at the expulsion of elements of the ego). This psychological soundscape and surreal narrative is akin to a form of stream of consciousness (…perhaps like that which derived from an immersive hypnotism session), where this dreamlike/ nightmare narrative clearly begs a comparison to the current lyrical approach of Scott Walker. Yet to have it said Martin’s vocal style substantially differs from the Mr Walker’s crooning, where Martin brings his own unique, urgent and visceral approach. Interestingly a similar theatre narrative and surreal stream of consciousness approach to lyrical passages was utilized on the last album ‘Order4’. Yet that album was equally immersive as it was impenetrable due to the strict rules imposed (…four tracks of exactly 15 minutes each), which resulted in a singular piece spanning four interconnecting soundscapes/ movements. As such the flow of the new album is much more conducive as a collection of individual tracks, which can be experienced either individually or as part of the greater whole. Likewise with full lyrics being printed within the booklet a complex web of thematic inspiration is hinted at within the text 1, noting these range from short collections of words, abstract sentences and passages of dense narrative. Yet despite the lyrics being included in the 20 page booklet, deciphering a clear meaning is a complex one, given the often abstract and surreal context of their presentation. Yet it is exactly this complexity of thematic approach which makes IRM such an engaging project, where the lyrical intricacy functions as sort a puzzle to be solved.
Putting thematic preoccupations aside, the fourth track of ‘Closure’ standouts due its employment of a differing and more varied vocal approach, where the clipped pronunciation and partly yelled vocals follow the stilted percussive structure, as rattled steel chains resonate in the background. Apart from its noted differences, many of the compositions do feature IRM’s modern era sound (…which sits somewhere between industrial drone to power-electronics soundscapes), featuring tense drones, slow atonal bass guitar strums and vocals alternating between spoken passages to agonised dual vocal lines. Likewise others pieces function as a form of psychological analysis, where two differing vocal lines call and respond to a list of abstract words over a minimalist industrial drone. Additionally with the sporadic inclusion of unusual sound elements such as a child’s wind-up toy, queasy laughing and lone crying/ sobbing, these aspects elevate the album’s surreal edge.
With IRM continuing to forge headlong into more ‘artistic’ realms, this will perhaps alienate some fans merely interested in the visceral and more direct side of the project. Yet equally IRM could not be accused of pandering to anyone’s expectations other than staunchly following their own creative muse, which in turn is further expanding the sound and focus of the project. Bearing witness to the gradual evolution of IRM from their infancy has been an engaging and rewarding experience, being yet another step in the process of expanding outer limits of a recognisable sound IRM, where ‘Closure’ is a striking achievement on the part of the group.
- The lyrics make reference to ‘Onan’, who was a minor biblical character in the Book of Genesis: the second son of Judah, and who was killed by Yahweh (God). Interestingly religious scholars have interpreted that the execution resulted from Onan ‘spilling seed’ (i.e. sexual acts associated with non-procreation), and retribution for being unwilling to father a child by his widowed sister-in-law. Yet despite the passing reference to Onan (which seems perfect for the scope of Martin’s lyrical obsessions), the balance of the lyrics do not provide any further hint at the myth and metaphor surrounding this religious figure.