Locrian & Mamiffer – Bless Them That Curse You

12/02/2012 § Leave a comment

Each Locrian release is an unpolished gem. A murky, hard-edged jewel which speaks nothing but matte meanderings to most listeners. But if you manage to infiltrate the gateway to Locrian’s essence, to break open the crust of their projection, you’ll find rays of sonic luminescence within. They are a band who play via tumultuous disharmony but whose substance is built on subtlety. This collaboration between Chicago’s Locrian and Vashon’s Mamiffer takes their exploration of minimal art to new depths. Gone are the ten minute, lead-thick ramparts of sound; the long, piercing sharded solos and the looping, never-ending churns of feedback. This time round, we’re not having it handed to us on a platter. Bless Them That Curse You is not only an exercise in exploring your own preconceptions of the band, but transforming them, regenerating them and being truly open to what’s in front of you. It is about the strength of melody as much as the strength of noise, the similarities of extremes and the universal midpoint. It is about travelling to the core of something to understand its nature, its cause, its campaign.

On the surface a collaboration with Mamiffer – known for their piano-led ambiance, alternative rock and experimental melodies – seems like an unusual pairing. But the symbiosis between the two helixes on an extremely deep level, their understanding of each other’s inner nature being what makes the project so successful. Here, both ensembles are not out to just make music, but to cut slices from their own marrow and pass them to the other for translation. As such, BTTCY is more a work of ambient than it is of noise, more of fragility than extremity, and one that operates in a variety of different modes. It is a very intriguing undertaking indeed, but one which daren’t show its message to you immediately. There’s a shyness and stress to the real content here, and only repeated coaxing off of its layers will show it to you.

The beginning of the work showcases the harsh drones of the Locrian we’re familiar with, but before long these dampen down into something calmer and softer altogether: the raining, pattering piano chords of “Corpus Luteum”; the static, ghostly fuzz within “Lechatelierite” and the shimmering distance of melody within the title track. We’re even given a tracing of female vocals for the first third of the mammoth closing piece, “Metis”, before Locrian ratchet up their defence mechanisms once more as the sonic behemoth of “Amaranthine” groans and screams into the highly dark and unsettling finale, “The Emperor”. BTTCY is perfectly balanced on each side, bookended by thick noise at the beginning and end which coats a highly soft and delicate centre section. The album is almost like some kind of sonic valley: steep unscalable walls on either side sloping to a lush and tender middle. Maybe it’s not so much of an album as an exposé.

At times it’s difficult to see exactly who’s in control. Occasionally the wavelet of a piano track commands our immediate attention, only for us to discover we’ve been missing a subtle drone-like hum underneath it the entire time; or a thick glass-like section of ambiance will be little else but a window through to some subtle, gleaming guitar within. BTTCY plays around with image and power as much as it does your experiences of it: the sounds are as important as the spaces around them, and both band knows how to perfectly balance their forte. It is an impressive fusion of understanding and ability.

This is not an album which can be tied down or typecast though, it is a thoroughly independent piece of music. It will have the last laugh just when you think you’ve understood it. Epic in feeling as well as in construction, it pulls together multiple branches of drone, ambient and experimental music but lets them interact together on a minimalist level to complex effect. It bears a particular truth and reality within its centre – and this truth is not just of sound, nor expression, but of pneuma: the breath of clarity. BTTCY shows us the vital importance of self-knowledge, and both halves of this collaboration have chosen to share theirs admirably.

Rating: 4.5/5

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