Review Summary: Two from the quiver.
There is a dignified candour with which Posh Isolation present themselves. The Denmark-based industrial label, despite an output that is often anything but middle-of-the-road, have a plain-faced way of marketing their brand. There is very little pretense, and the carryover to listener appreciation is that of a memorable fine dining experience where the food speaks for itself. We’ll stave off a cheesy long-winded food analogy, but, suffice it to say, Damien Dubrovnik, composed of the label’s two founders Loke Rahbek and Christian Stadsgaard, produce a sound rooted in real-world trials and tribulations, rather than intangible abstractions alone. Conceptually, Great Many Arrows
was constructed as much at the hands of endless toiling as it was in the mind. Opener “Arrow 1”, namely, plays like a Roman pantomime with an aging male lead reciting the destruction of his kingdom. The vocals stab with a sense of helplessness in their near-indecipherability, like listening in on a panicked plea for help though a crackling CB radio. War drums resonate in such a way that blends with black arcus clouds, and melodic strings die with grace. Like other moments on the album, we see a blend of bygone-era acoustic instrumentation with modern-era electronics, stuck partway between different ends of a time portal. It all feels deeply retrospective, steeped in repressed memories that would prefer to be bottled up. Now uncorked, it is vague in details but heavy-handed in tones and emotions that are emphasized without being embellished. It’s like piecing together your grandfather’s tales of war via the creases on his face.
Great Many Arrows
is episodic, as illustrated by the plainly numbered song titles. It’s almost like an anthology without translation or established order, dug up, examined, and upon frustration numbered “1, 2, 3…” and bound. The songs could probably be listened to out of order and be enjoyed all the same. This is to be expected with much of what Loke Rahbek touches on Posh Isolation: songs connected very loosely, with miles and years between them, so that the shared context is threadbare. Trying to describe certain songs feels like a Rorschach test. As with label mate Puce Mary
’s music, the songs unfold with ambiguity, yet are often highly dramatic in the confusion. “Arrow 4” is a great example; it feels like pacing around a cluttered room, disoriented and weighed down with thoughts of elsewhere. Another one: “Arrow 2” initially mimics wandering through a serene country side, but intermittently discovering horrific symbols of death and destruction. It’s a tad like a Benjamin Britten piece turned sour. Gradually, the wanderer descends into something hellish and soaked with lore, reminiscent of the early Diablo games. “Arrow 5”, possibly the most aching song present, sets a mood that is both lush and sterile. It’s like a corridor painted in various shades of white, yet somehow rendered more colourful by the light beaming through the windows. It’s what one could possibly expect in a Hayao Miyazaki movie centred around a children’s hospital. The woodwind refrain hovers over the song like the hand of a healer over the head of the demonically possessed; and when it’s finally lifted, it’s as though decades of torment are stripped away like cheap, weathered veneer to reveal something reborn. An interesting tone to set, considered this is a landmark release for the label (number 200).
The balance of barren neoclassicism and expanding industrial music can’t really be overstated, and is Great Many Arrows
’ boon. It sees the music tethered to something, somewhere. Stadsgaard and Rahbek are yin and yang, contrary yet connected. They recurrently support each other upon either/or giving way to collapse, by way of emotional or physical fatigue. Great Many Arrows
doesn’t really have conventional buildups, and it’s not always clear if anything gets resolved. It’s pernicious, and maybe that ties into the album’s source of inspiration. The Ōyakazu (“great many arrows”), an old Japanese archery event, involved participants shooting arrows continuously for 24 hours. The songs being titled numerically, with a total of six, suggests something with no resolution in sight, doomed to withstand thousands of strikes more. We’re reaching a bit here, and maybe that’s the extent of the analogical worth, but it’s something. In an interview with Ian Maleney (published by The Quietus), the duo explained, “We can never control how the receiver will interpret our work, and it is not in our interest either
." Damien Dubrovnik don’t make things easy, despite offering total free reign in the worlds they weave.