It Only Gets Worse ‎– Fireplace Road

It Only Gets Worse Fireplace Road MC Cloister Recordings/ Black Horizons US 2018

When I was first heard about this project I was unaware that it is another musical outlet for Maurice De Jong, he of the more widely recognized projects Gnaw Their Tongues and Aderlating. For this project Maurice has provided the music and has teamed up with American Matt Finney to provide lyrics and vocals, and based on the project name I perhaps excepted this would be death industrial type music, however that assumption was completely wrong. What is featured is a bit of an odd blend of post-rock musically sensibilities, ambient soundscapes and late 1990’s/ early 2000’s beat drive electronica.

On the opening untitled track a mellow post-rock mood comes through strongly, which is framed around piano and synths rather than guitars, while the following track Jackson dives headlong into a piece of mid paced kit drumming, programmed beats and squelching bass rhythm, with the guitars again being an understated element. In forging further variation, a mood of uplifting melancholy permeates the upbeat Lee, which is mostly derived from the layered shimmering synths. However to speak of less successful moments Painting On Glass contains fractured programmed elements which jar against the mood of preceding tracks. Beyond the music, the vocals on various tracks are spoken in a heavily inflected southern American drawl, which are musings on life, tragedy and loss, but handled in a poetically oblique and non-direct style.

Six tracks feature on the pro-duplicated tape, with around a total of around 24 minutes minutes of material, and while the end result caught me by surprise, it is an enjoyable tape all the same. So, if you are at all curious leave your expectations at the door as this is nothing like Maurice’s usual output, where perhaps the closest comparison is the less known side project Seirom which in the past has delivered some beautiful cinematic quality, droning instrumental post-rock/ shoegaze styled soundscapes.

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Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution

Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution LP Cloister Recordings / Black Horizons 2018

Evidently Leila Abdul-Rauf is active in a number of other projects, including some underground metal bands, but as I am not familiar with any of those my only reference point is with her last album Insomnia from 2015 (reviewed here). In building upon on the earlier sonic template, Leila’s new album Diminution can be considered through the definition of its title which amounts to: “the act, process, or an instance of becoming gradually less”. In this context, the dusky film noir atmospheres established on Insomnia have been further distilled down to a core, slighted abstracted emotional essence, although conversely a lengthier and at times song-tinged format has been employed.

On the opening title track a sparse piano motif sits in the foreground, while a lone haunting trumpet plays off in the foggy distance, and thus with the evoked mood of late hours melancholia, this remains as the constant tone throughout the balance of the album. Half of the eight album tracks include vocals courtesy of Leila, but these remain understated and effectively float through the ether as another haunting textural element, and on occasion layered and multi-tracked for subtle choral effect. With the combination of vocals and music has an ethereal dreamlike quality, but always of a darker emotive hue rather than anything resembling a light or whimsical tone. Likewise the feel of abandoned and desolate nighttime urban streets remains an atmospheric constant (as represented by dour minor keyed synth washes) which blends perfectly with late-night jazz tone (derived from the sporadic lone trumpet playing), to create a deft film noir/ late night ‘Lynchian’ vibe. Late album track Hindsight deviates ever so slightly, through the introduction of a sparse and understated picked acoustic guitar, while final album track Light Rising concludes as a highlight in its convergence of elements described above, but delivered in a slightly more urgent musical framework.

While the artwork in the form of an original painting by Matthew Jaffe would perhaps tend to suggest a more typical dark ambient album, this is far from the reality of what is musically presented, which is hauntingly eloquent in it chosen musical expression, where this album has been the perfect soundtrack to cold autumn nights (being the current Australian season in which the album is being reviewed). In taking the atmospheric mood of Insomnia and building upon it, Diminution stands above as a more impressive and emotionally impacting album. With the vinyl version being jointly issued by Cloister Recordings and Black Horizons, should CD be the preferred format, that is being handled by Malignant Records.

Trepaneringsritualen – Roi Perdu

Trepaneringsritualen – Roi Perdu MC Black Horizons 2012

Not a new release from T x R x P, rather a repress of an earlier 2010 tape, with this new edition limited to 150.  Here the packaging is beautifully presented, including gold print on iron black card stock for the inner J card and jet black casing with metallic printed stickers for the cassette.

Less harsh than the recent 10”ep (reviewed here), this MC focuses on more ritualised ambient fields for its atmospheric and archaic analogue sounds.  This alternate sound approach is immediately evident on the first track ‘De La Mer’ with its slow ritual percussion, wavering wood wind instrument and great croaked and slightly distortion treated vocals.  Moving onto the second track ‘Le Seul Vrai Roi’ seeks a more ominous path of sustained drones and vocals distorted to the point that they become yet another sound element within the soundscape. On side two ‘Champ Sacre’, toys with the similar sound elements of synth layers and ritualised chimes, but the percussive pounding elements engender a more classic death industrial tone, again with the screech / distorted vocals which are very much a trademark of T x R x P’s sound. This track bleeds into the final of the four tracks ‘Decoupage De L’Orme’ which strips away the percussive elements to reveal a sparse windswept soundscape with field recordings of a burning fire, distant agonised screams (…heretics being burnt at the stake perhaps?) and vocals of the deep ‘demonic growling’ variety.

Although a short tape, a very strong occult vibe permeates all facets of this release and demonstrates a very strong a focused approach of the artist, where clearly T x R x P deserves all the accolades coming their way of late.