Review Summary: Get ready to click the edit button on your year end lists.Croatian Amor
has progressed like an expanding sphere, encompassing all the neighboring sounds it encounters in its experimentation. Starting with the most stark and minimal industrial release, "Brother, Sister" and heretofore culminating with "The World," Loke Rahbek and whoever else is behind one of the most unique bands associated with the label “Posh Isolation" have created not a linear narrative, but a logarithmic one. The themes and motifs explored become more defined on each release, but are vaster still. We can see this on "The World". Croatian Amor’s previous releases evoked starkly European themes. Croatia is one of the most contested areas in Europe; liner notes often read "Croatian Amor is 1989," i.e. the year former satellite countries staged revolutions and seceded from the USSR. The word "amor" itself is intrinsically common ground in Europe, translating to “love” in Latin, this meaning carries over into many languages with Latin roots. The collage artwork seen on many of Croatian Amor releases (including the 7” preceding this album) feature cutouts of articles dealing with sexual identity, gender identity, and body dysmorphic identity issues and problems. These issues are not evoked as mere fetishism, but are held up to the light, exposed and expressed through sound, words, and the meaning behind grinding tin foil across a contact microphone. While not everyone would agree, I think the members of Croatian Amor would see Europe as a distinguished place for discourse about issues like these.
A look at the artwork for “The World” clearly signals a more encompassing approach. For one, the title (duh). Secondly, the artwork is not a pastiche of different images, but instead a single, heavily pixelated image of what appears to be a woman’s (man’s?) head thrown backward. The exposure that the Danish scene has received from American audience and press, as well as their tours over here (and Vår released an LP on Sacred Bones in NYC this year too) has clearly had an impact on them. It seems that Loke has decided to let this impact come to light through this release.
The back cover reads:
The silver fish sleep
Under the bridges
Where the black men sleep
And girls with blue eyebrows
God is in the water
Where young people meet
Where wet swim suits
Hang from the trees
With spores on their boots
Behind mosquito nets
Fever hangs on the fiancées
And never lets them sleep
The boys flock to the young girls house
The addicts take their heroin in the morning
Death is in the eyes of the young Cherokee”
The music is just as starkly different from the beginning. Side A opens with "LA Hills Burn in the Peak of Winter," a track that has clearly a recognizable guitar melody (!!!). Treated with just the right amount of reverb, these repeated melodies churn and churn, layers of synthesizer and intermittent drum machine help build the tension. One is reminded of that mid 90s post-rock without the crescendos that found its home on Kranky. The song lingers just long enough to be poignant and then dissolves into other sounds. The closer of side A, titled “Lovers in Flames,” is a perfect example of “familiar territory, bigger map.” Various drone textures of synth tracks are phased in and out in an elongated, but still rhythmic fashion, while field recordings are spliced together and then undone again in the background. The sounds are so familiar, yet alien. One sounds like moaning, but it is impossible to tell if the moaning is in pleasure, pain, terror, awe, or any context whatsoever. The other sounds like children playing on playground equipment, laughing. Finally, spoken vocals enter. Imagine if someone set up their entire power electronics set up to the microphone, but instead of screaming, decided to read spoken word poetry instead.
Side B’s “New Year” exists in contrast to most of side A. Instead of layers blurring together to create a sense of melding disorientation, the mix here is very sparse and sounds very much in stereo. A guitar riff repeats itself over and over, with a sense of urgency and separation; the sound of the guitar and its reverb maintains its own sonic space. Labored breathing fills the spaces left by alternating fits and starts of arpeggiated synths and swelling chords of floating synthesized tone. Spoken word vocals enter again, briefly, with not as much effect treatment. Soon the sounds created by the breathing and the rustling things around, the guitar, the arpeggiated synth and the swells all coalesce together and create one driving unified front. Waves and waves pick you up and carry you smoothly, but the eddies near your feet make you doubt your security.
The album closes with a field recording that appears to have been taken in a subway terminal. There is a woman talking, the sound of foot traffic, the rumbling sound of trains underground, somewhere close and somewhere far. A synth fitted to sound like a piano complements this woman’s monologue. It’s hard to make out what she’s saying. Clear phrases are “a lot of substance produced in your body” and “die from” and “for a long time.” Do we go through our days perceiving our lives like this? Bits and snatches of sound make up a ballad, a poem, make up an image, a feeling, a pixelated picture of a human, androgynous.
A final footnote at the end reads “the lovers lost, that’s all.”
Stream track A1, "LA Hills Burn at the Peak of Winter," via this link