Saturday, 7 December 2019

La Dècadence Des Étoiles - Lost In Jail.

Album: Lost in Jail
Artist: La Décadence des Étoiles (BRTHRM + Apocalypse Sounds)
Label: Manninen Henki Records
Catalogue no: Not known

     1.      First day
     2.      Blurred Images of Could I’ve and Should I’ve
     3.      Last Day

BRTHRM describe themselves as an experimental noise project inaugurated in 2018, and Apocalypse Sounds is Arnaud Chatelard, one of whose recordings I reviewed some while back (Promised Land on Spain’s Hamfuggi Records) and this collaboration takes us into a hybrid darkambient/noise/experimental territory, a brooding, malignant, desolate place that appears to be perpetually shrouded in mist, where dimly-seen shapes take on sinister and dangerous significances. This is an area less-travelled, probably unmapped, and not for the faint of heart.

‘First Day’ dawns with plangent, mournful drones, united in dirge-like lamentation, and are soon joined by a rasping oscillation accompanied by even higher-pitched howls. We stand at the border of this uncharted land, the sounds emanating from those thick fogs constituting an alarm and a warning: this place isn’t one full of wonders and marvels, but of travails and disasters. There are no paths, and there’s nothing to guide us on our way. A blast of abrading wind sweeps over us just as we step over the line, to await whatever is hiding in those blankets of obscuring fog.

‘Blurred Images of Could I’ve and Should I’ve’ opens with the same slow oscillating croak, accompanied by drips and stuttering footsteps, but whether they’re ours or those of some other unseen denizens can’t be discerned. Strange keenings swirl out of hidden nooks and crevices, creating an unsettling impression that we’re being observed by mysterious eyes, and that our every move is being watched and monitored. Bells resonate from all sides, their sources indiscernible through the curtain of haze forever surrounding us. Only slight tremors and subtle breaths shift the still air, and these are only witnessed by the minute whorls and eddies breaking out in the otherwise blank, monotonous texture of the persistent mist. The oppressive lack of light, or even recognisable shapes of any terrain, combine to create a dissonance and disequilibrium that only worsens the deeper we go into this blighted, elusive land. It’s an environment in which we simultaneously feel isolated and alone, and also surrounded by beasts and figures whose intent appears to be to hinder us or to do us harm in some way. The very fact that they’re not doing anything is a psychological weapon in itself, pushing our nerves to their very limits, and could break our minds at any time. On the other hand, perhaps there is nothing and no one there at all, and the only thing that will kill us will be our own minds and imaginations.

Finally, we get to track three, ‘Last Day’. Does it hold out any hope of salvation, or rescue? Or are we destined to remain lost wanderers, unable to find our way home. Will we conquer our fears to discover the truth of this landscape that we’ve been stumbling through, or will it claim us before we step outside the boundaries of its borders? The air here does appear to be clearer, and the way more open, but it occurs to me that even if we find ourselves under blue skies the dark path behind us will have left its mark on our psyches, and that as a result we will never be the same again. Hints of those psychological shadows abound here; ghostly howls and cries, reverberating endlessly, accompany subterranean tremors that appear to stalk us as if sentient. They seem to be unwilling to let us forget them, that a part of them has been left behind buried within the deepest recesses of our minds, yet in places where we’re constantly reminded of their presences. In some respects, we have just fought an inner battle, which has left us more deeply affected and changed than we realise. Just like the soldier who returns home from an atrocious battle, an experience that has irrevocably changed him, a species of brutalisation and mental distortion which will perpetually colour his life henceforward. Now his (and by extension our) war has been internalised, and will be fought against himself.

This is a seamless collaboration, one that plays and preys on our deepest darkest fears through clever manipulation of sound and subtle use of oppressive atmospherics and textures. Full of dankness and darkness, created without veering into dirge or cliché, almost as if the unseen entities inhabiting this mythical and malignant landscape have actually been brought into manifestation and have somehow been infused into the music itself. It’s an intense experience, one that appears to seep into one’s bones, its icy fingers clutching at our hearts and minds. A mature and mesmerising work that will repay countless visits – although don’t forget to bring a map with you next time or leave markers.

Available in digital format only from:

Psymon Marshall 2019.

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