Thursday, 15 August 2019

Murderous Vision - Surface Bone.

Album: Surface Bone
Artist: Murderous Vision
Label: Live Bait Recording Foundation
Catalogue no: LBRF053

      1.      Ancestral Remnants
      2.      Surface Bone
      3.      A Thought that Shatters Teeth
      4.      Cries of Mankind (2019 version)

This particular incarnation of Murderous Vision is a collaborative exercise between Stephen Petrus and Jeff Curtis (Iron Oxide, Vengeance Space Quartet) for a series of three performances in February this year, in Cleveland, Oakland, and Los Angeles. The version under review here is the digital release, which does NOT include the full live recording of the performance at Coaxial Arts in LA which, however, is available on the CDr release. Note that all the tracks presented are the studio versions rather than being taken from any of the live performances.

I reviewed MV’s Abscission recently and, whereas that previous release stood firmly in the death/industrial ambient part of the spectrum, this outing leans more heavily to the ambient end of the scale, with Curtis’ contributions leavening Petrus’ background electronics, programming, and vocals with effects-processed bass. The four pieces here are structurally more complex as a result, but are no less affecting for all that.

What’s on the set-list then? ‘Ancestral Remnants’ starts with a hovering drone, slow tribal percussion, and an assortment of voices, an act of memory perhaps reaching back into the now lost beginnings of mankind and civilisation. It’s airy, and floats languidly, a silken scarf borne on a desert wind, a vision of ancient palaces and tiled courtyards, oases and caravanserai, the bygone days of camel-trains on trade routes and colourful bazaars. It swirls and gyrates like a belly-dancer, and moves like a side-winder snake across hot sand. A boisterous and scouring scirocco barrels through a desert in ‘Surface Bone’, throwing up sand to obscure the vision, and through the rare breaks in the wall of airborne silica we can perhaps see the fallen ruins of a once great city, whose streets are full of the ghosts of the people who once made it their home. The chitter-chatter of chimes and instruments, and distant barely intelligible voices emerge piecemeal from out of the storm and the past to remind us of those heady days of rare spices and hashish.

Next up comes the heavyweight crunch of ‘A Thought that Shatters Teeth’, a blistering fuzzed out juggernaut whose only purpose it seems is to trample and flatten everything that has the misfortune to get in its way. This is truly down and dirty, about as far removed from the previous two compositions as it’s possible to get, both in terms of genre and mood. It’s suffocating, anguished, and lightless, a scorching blast meant to flense and atomise. If you want a little doom in your life, then this will be happy to oblige.
‘Cries of Mankind’ was originally recorded in 2002 and appeared on the Times Without Gods album – not having heard that original I can only vouch for the present iteration. A mournful lament of sparse drones supported by an equally sparse scaffold of percussive beats breathes shallowly, the brain-penetrating high tones lingering long like the last shimmering echoes of a large gong long after it’s been struck. A voice intrudes, until it all finally ends and fades away, leaving behind a profound silence in its wake.

The tableaux presented here showcase the flexibility of not only Stephen Petrus’ approach to music but also of expression and use of sound to create meaning and mood. For someone like me, who ‘sees’ (but not in the synesthetic sense) music as well as hears it, it’s a bountiful source of imagery, emotions, and ideas. This work is never static: it’s highly suggestive, allowing the mind to wander along the roads it travels, as well as prompting the imagination to fill in the spaces in between notes. The ‘aura’ (for want of a better word) of these pieces surrounds the mind and body (especially ‘Cries of Mankind’), infusing its flavour into every cell. It may not be a particularly long album, but it contains a lot more craft, emotion, energy, and ideas than many a much longer affair. Paying close attention is worth its own reward on this one.

Available as a digital download and as a pro-printed CDr, limited to just 100 copies, from here:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

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