Review Summary: Witching hour
Vulgarity and subversion have, to various degrees, been the backbone of noise music ever since the initial visions of French composer Edgard Varèse (possibly the inventor of tape music). The stereotypical disregard of unfamiliar music being “just noise” dates back at least as far as Varèse’s various lectures circa early 1900s, in which he posits all music being merely organized noise. Therefore, perhaps the blatantly seedy depictions found within various harsh noise works are an extension of this, serving as nihilistic critiques not only of musical appreciative standards, but society’s views on sex, violence, and drugs in general. It’s curious that ANW project Volhnn would title its most recent outing, Phallus Dei
(basically, “God’s penis”), as such. Phallus Dei
is hardly subversive or explicit in its construction, and could have easily been titled “Serenity” or “Meditations” or something else alluding to loneliness. The album succeeds in blending nonmaterial pleasure with highly physical sensations, sort of like erotic asphyxiation.
The first of two numbers, “SS-9 Scarp” seems to take the near-silence of a wilderness night and amplify it, as though the panoramic ambience is being condensed to fit inside a diving helmet. The track is underpinned with a texture that rumbles with a benign yet disconcerting mystery, like the Taos Hum. Over the course of 30 minutes, the song doesn’t alter much, as Volhnn patiently establishes a mood and lets it fester while the listener is lightly pelted with specs of noise, like bugs hitting a car grill. Roughly 20 minutes in, the static grows more restless, heightening the potency slowly. Follow-up “SS-18 Satan” is similar in that it doesn’t have much action, but is probably more effective in its construction. It creates a sense of precarious pressure, like looking up at a glass ceiling bearing the weight of more and more snow during a blizzard. There’s never a sense of outright danger, but the sense of agitation is always present, despite the soothing pulse. In a way, it feels comparable to a house-arrest form of imprisonment in how it blends a sense of forced assurance with the feeling of always looking over one’s shoulder. Phallus Dei
is never outright offensive or brutally punishing; it’s a bit more sinister, maybe. We witness a neutered aftermath of something that’s never described in detail, but carefully implied. This could be the soundtrack of a wicked crime gone unpunished, and a rickety psyche just one straw shy of snapping.