Russian act Jagath is one that at first glance I mistook for a solo doom-drone act, but this impression was wholly incorrect – they’re a collective of players, including Gregory Skvortsov who did the recording for this new album Devalaya (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR290CD) and ten other collaborators who are listed on the back cover, including mysterious souls who go by single-name aliases, such as Nikt, Goro, Chaospasm, and (my personal fave) Reverbov. That last name is so resonant that you’d be convinced he’s one who plays all his sounds through the world’s most brutal reverb pedal, but you’d be wrong; one of the “selling points” of this semi-industrial dark ambient ritualistic project is that they use “no digital synthesis” (no processing at all, by extension) and produce all these echoing sounds using the natural echo of the spaces in which they perform.
These spaces are, naturally enough, abandoned industrial sites in Russian urban spaces, which the band tell us about in detail with a certain unwholesome delight; the sooner they can get inside an oil tank, or find their way to the bottom of a sewer, then the happier they will be. Once there, all hands on deck for lifting and deploying the home-made musical instruments to send abstract clanks rattling into the night, plus all throats and voices open up for the release of ceremonial chants, moans, and sighs. To further the ceremonial side of things, each member wears cowls, hoods, or robes such that they resemble members of an underground cult from a science-fiction movie, and some don goggles (for night vision, or for spot-welding) to project that all-out spooky alien vibe. Scanning the photos in this six-panel digipak, it’s evident that flames also have a part to play, either as simple flambeaux or torches so the band can find their way in the unlit passages, or shooting out of prepared flame-thrower devices in a dramatic manner, probably to punctuate the peaks of the music. Fireworks too are admissible, or something that creates a Catherine-wheel-like circle of orange sparks.
So far all this kinetic action and noise might come across as an update on the 1980s school of destruction and metal-hammering in the vein of Einstürzende Neubaten, Tools You Can Trust, or Test Dept, but the sensations I derive from today’s spin have none of that zest or spirit for tearing down buildings and smashing rubble into dust. Rather, Jagath project a spirit of intense nihilism, emphasising the “coldness” of Russia which they claim has locked all of society into a permanent deep-freeze, where the brains of the populace are slowed to a standstill and inertia is the normal state of affairs. Their grand plan is to describe, through their music, the bleakness of the “decaying post-industrial age” which they find around them, and get to the hard-core of truth of “life in the abyss”. It’s not clear to me if they seek any kind of personal sublimation through the horrifying decay, or if they promise any kind of redemption for mankind, although the album title translates as “Temple”, alluding I suppose to the ritualistic side of their vague murmurings and endlessly echoing sounds. But the church they worship at is not founded on an orthodox interpretation of the Christian Hope, if track titles ‘Abyss’ and ‘Darkness’ are an indicator.
Atmospheric stuff, though; it’s good that they never settle for an average droning emission, and instead what characterises their technique is its simplicity and austerity, eerie chants mixed with echoing footfalls and percussive blows, letting the cavernous environment do a lot of their work for them with its natural echo. This seems to be their first release on a record label; if you enjoy this, be sure to look out for their self-released file-based albums, such as Agni, Prak, and Rakta. From 21st December 2020.