With the advent of the Information Age, “experimental” has become something of a precarious word, often dismissed as an avenue for flunkies to have themselves excused of any and all criticism, simply because they can get themselves termed as such. When the object of a genre – such as power electronics – is the very deconstruction of age-old musical principles, a revolt of this nature comes as no surprise, especially given the extent to which artists will go to offend both the public and the establishment. Matthew Bower’s opus Fetor
is in a unique position in that it is neither overtly offensive nor a total departure from musical norms, but at the same time manages to convey a feeling of pure dejection better than any of its significantly more extreme brethren.
The atmosphere of Fetor
cannot merely be summed up with a handful of superlatives, seeing as it’s one of the very few albums to genuinely merit descriptors that are often liberally given to albums of this sort. To say Fetor
is “haunting” or “disturbing” would be to sell it short by way of verbal redundancy, regardless of whether the aforementioned terms are
the most appropriate labels available. A significant portion of the album’s appeal stems from its relatively subdued aesthetic in comparison to albums of a similar vein, utilising waves of feedback, gritty drones, distorted guitar lines and static-laden vocals in a way that engrosses the listener rather than assaults them. Opener “Moral Stain” consists of a looped drone that intermittently changes pace as well as pitch, sometimes coupled with a separate layer that overlaps and falls in and out of sync with the existing one. The track’s eerie framework is complimented by Bower’s indecipherable shrieking, and the end result is like an aural companion piece to a 1930s surrealist-horror film.
Oddly enough, Fetor
is remarkably easy to connect with, by virtue of a conscious and methodical approach to crafting soundscapes that play on our natural craving for consonance and relief. It would be wrong to say the album is easy on the ears, but it strikes a perfect balance between sonic abrasion and sparse though rewarding elements of convention. This is most apparent during the middle of the album, where the relatively formless aesthetic is dropped in favour of an approach more reminiscent of noise rock than power electronics. “Fulcrum/23” and “Venereal Flesh” are both trance-inducing numbers that repeat their respective oddball riffs ad infinitum, before dissolving once again into the sinister industrial soundscapes that opened and duly close the album. Impressions of Fetor
will vary from listen to listen, but whatever the mental image it manages to conjure, be assured that few albums will match its sheer potency.
is not the kind of album to rupture your eardrums in an extraneous quest to achieve the most extreme sound imaginable, instead, it blends the atypical with the familiar to create an experience that is incredibly cerebral. Fetor
can be intimidating, it can be disheartening, it can even be meditative in some bizarre way. Whatever the application, Fetor
will be the embodiment of your most enigmatic thoughts, and what you personally take from it will be more a reflection of yourself than it.