In Mirror Arms

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Last heard from Sum Of R with their Ride Out The Waves EP, which we noted in August 2013. The LP Lights On Water (UTECH RECORDS URLP085 / SUM01) is another well-constructed studio spook-out, played mostly by Swiss genius Reto Mäder who does multiple overdubs of his keyboards, bass, percussion, samples, and electronic effects; while guitarist Julia Valentina Wolf is given ample room to screech and squeal. The music this time is characterised by much in the way of “martial” drumming, and most of the pieces tend to build from a creepy, atmospheric opening up to a histrionic finale of sheer gibbering terror. I get the impression the musicians would rather do anything than play conventional chords or melodies, yet everything tends towards a minor key; all the special effects are designed to induce unease in the listener (the unnatural wailing voice on the first track is particularly memorable), and the musicians paint a grim, noirish, supernatural picture of the world. But it’s also one rooted in a fantasy milieu, such as Sword and Sorcery or horror movie culture, and almost every note played is but one step away from the patchouli-scented realm of the black-suited Goth. Somehow Sum Of R don’t deliver quite enough conviction in the forces of evil. Reto Mäder rarely fails in his convincing many-layered studio constructions, but this time I feel the guitar playing of Wolf is a shade too conventional for me; while her acidic tone is welcome, the minor-key melodies she plays are quite ordinary, and the record is sometimes let down by her heavy metal-derived riffs and blues-based soloing. Corrine Futterlieb took the cover photographs. From February 2014.

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Nice piece of contemporary Italian industrial evil-drone music from Candor Chasma on The Key (OLD EUROPA CAFE OECD 194). This is the duo of Simon Balestrazzi and Corrado Altieri, who take their name from a canyon on Planet Mars and are proud of their “no digital processing” stance on their heavy, gritty records which often have what the Annie Hall 1 character would have called a “negative capability”. The Key is another occult release not far from the tenor and atmosphere of Rings, an ectoplasm-heavy item which we noted in 2012. This time the underpinning theme is the life and works of Madame Blavatsky, the 19th century Russian spiritualist who made quite a name for herself with her extensive worldwide travels, and went on to found the school of Theosophy. Select events from the life of this Empress of the Paranormal are explicitly referenced in Candor Chasma’s track titles; clearly something eerie transpired on board the S.S. Eunomia, and in Hyde Park on 12 August 1851, but I will leave this for more advanced students of esoterica to discover. Candor Chasma yield to no man in their stern droning endeavours, even if most of these tracks follow the same structural formula – start out quiet and scary, and gradually build up multiple layers, to end up as on a terrifying roar replete with old-school abstract noise terror bursts interrupting the queasy, pulsating flow. And of course they make effective use of found recordings of voices, buried deep in the mix, murmuring and whispering to summon instant impressions of a darkened séance parlour. It’s convincing material and well executed, even if these are tropes and themes which are currently being done to death in Hollywood, in movies like White Noise, Ouija, Insidious, etc.; even the front cover looks like one of those damned souls trying to escape from the TV set in Poltergeist. On the other hand, Hollywood movie-makers have little interest in things like history, research or scholarship to bolster their juvenile fright-fest romps, and at least Balestrazzi and Altieri have done their homework into this interesting chapter of European history. From 02 May 2014.

  1. My error – of course this should be Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979).