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the black lodge
nuit et brouillard   2002
  see also
"our life through your death"
"vindication and contempt"

album rating: 2

submitted by jc smith on 13-Aug-2002
Mitchell Altum, the mastermind of the LAW cataclysmic mayhem, deserves the attention of everyone interested in dark experimental electronic music. His creations as LAW explore unknown avenues of light and shade, ambience and noise. The Black Lodge is his final presentation of new material as LAW (future endeavors will go under a different moniker), the material here stemming from 1997, and yet (as I believe I have said with every LAW release), it has more originality and aural impact than most of what passes as innovative today. Unreachable Core sounds like some kind of mutant, vacuum compressed machinery designed to trepan the skull of the earth. It punctures with a looped, brakes locked and skidding smack, opening a pathway for a circular drill bit that cuts and digs into the hardened crust. For the first few minutes, variations of the tectonic plate annihilation are expressed via varying tones, distortion and brute force. An unexplored zone of fear is excavated (from the gray matter core?), emphasized by sounds reminiscent of some kind of ferocious machine in search of soul, the substance of humanity‹or at least something to validate its existence. Life is manufactured (stolen!) from the living and transferred to the machine during the obscene process; sentience seems imminent, as explosions die at the feet of timbres that suggest spirituality through a murky miasma of classically aligned sounds that border on melody. This eerie, haunting undercurrent erodes the background of most of the work on The Black Lodge, as if Altum is utilizing a canvass stitched together from souls in turmoil. This sense of unease, of spiritual dislocation (of misery on display), is brilliantly expressed by the all-around textural components (classical traces, multi-layered ambiences). The Strong Is Strongest When Alone bathes the listener in reams of guitar and Mitchell's sparse yet effective vocals. Underneath, bubbling keyboards make odd, popping bubble passes through the blasted landscape, and animals (elephants?!) groan in protest. It seems strangely like some kind of sonic dissertation on the primal within man. A tinny barrage of psychotic jangling percussion rattles one's nerves. Moaning metal, bending and twisting in warped elasticity, is polished in the bruised hues of torture aftermath, the density of sounds strangled by strong, unforgiving fingers. During The Mind Overcomes Fear, Mitchell's shredded metallic larynx intro dissolves into reverb-inflected steel wool tones and recordings that sound like the mangled EVP recitations of the tormented dead (emanations from the stitched together canvass from above?). Agony is prominent, confusion and disorientation not far behind. Crackling circuitry misconnections highlight Total Immersion, recording the rise and fall of sick electronics on the verge of nausea. An abrupt silencing of the sickness leads one into electronics of an oily nature, slipping and sliding and laced with trepidation. An odd acoustic interlude throws everything out of sync. The combination of diverse elements evokes no known place; it is an ambience uniquely its own, a truly astonishing accomplishment! Follow that with the reverberant sounds of a metallic caress culled from within the echoed confines of an abandoned silo (that's what it sounds like!), and more crackling, seething static, and one has been witness to a really strange aural exhibition, even by the highly inventive standards of LAW. The last track, Into The Inexorable is, quite simply, a neo-classical denouement, including horns that bleat a summons over strong echoed vocals and stern, somber synths that add to the overall militaristic ambience. There's an eyes-wide-open willingness (a lack of fear) infused in all of the work of LAW, particularly evident when LAW combine disparate tones and instrumentation, that one does not hear often enough in the realm of dark experimental electronic music. Let's hope that wherever Altum decides to explore next, it's still with the same verve and originality that he incorporated into the work of Law. The Black Lodge is an awesome finale!

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