Review Summary: Ew, maggots!
For a long time, something had been bugging me about Abandon
, Pharmakon’s first widely-distributed album. I didn’t mind listening to it over and over again. I definitely enjoyed what I was hearing. Something about it, though, had been jabbing at my side like a thorn. I knew something was wrong with it, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. Pharmakon is a woman in an area of music that’s typically saturated with men. But there’s nothing wrong with that, and it can’t be the reason I’m not loving this. So I dug deeper, and started to critically analyze the album in the harshest manner I have ever used.
has five tracks, but immediately, one of them can be pushed aside. The final track ‘Sour Sap’ is nearly half an hour long, and doubles the length of the entire album. It sounds like small rough drafts of songs that the artist never quite finished, which were then compiled into one 27-minute piece and labeled as a bonus track. There is no discernable structure. When that track is discarded, the album is just a bit over 26 minutes long and four tracks are left. That is hardly the length of an album, and it becomes closer to an EP. There isn’t much material left to study, but Pharmakon still manages to make a good impression on the listener.
Each one of the four tracks has essentially the same structure. One sound is introduced after another, until a solid beat is formed that is then screamed over. The instrumentals disassemble themselves at the end. The screams produced from Pharmakon’s body are some of the most disturbing vocalizations that have been put to noise in the recent years. She never lets up with them, either. The first track ‘Milkweed / It Hangs Heavy’ has the reverberated sound of a scream present for the entire track. Personally-charged imagery are also ubiquitous in this first track, and seem to manifest themselves in others. This one, for example, describes a heavy, overbearing robe that’s meant to purify you. Cleanse you of your sins, perhaps. It’s not something you choose to wear; it is forced. This same type of message appears on the track ‘Crawling On Bruised Knees’.
The word “beautiful” is probably an odd choice of words to describe Pharmakon’s ear-piercing constructions, but it fits somehow. The repetition involved is very technical, and the amount of effort put into Abandon
is displayed clearly. Every song is exactly what the artist wanted it to be. She didn’t settle. On my fourth listen, I found myself smiling when I listened to the vibrating, eerie voice on ‘Crawling On Bruised Knees’. The album is surprisingly accessible. But at that point, I realized what was wrong with it.
Pharmakon puts so much work into how the album sounds, and much less into the message behind each song. She seems more focused on the screams, and the shock value of each piece. This leaves Abandon
to be unfortunately shallow. The album cover is meant to give the viewer a creepy-crawly vibe, and these songs are meant to haunt you. But there’s nothing underneath that layer of macabre. Once the listener overcomes the initial reaction, it gets old exceedingly fast. Every listen afterward gets stale. I got somewhat accustomed to the album's tricks after one listen. There was nothing else to examine. Although the music itself is good, and anyone who is willing to subject themselves to the album would likely enjoy it, it just ends up being…noise.