Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Demdike Stare

In their dark satanic mill up North, Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty construct industrial-strength beats and weave wicked sonic textures for your listening pleasure. Since Canty works for crate-diggers Finders Keepers, who released Sam McCloughlin & Alison Cooper’s ‘Supernatural Lancashire’ (elements of which undoubtedly qualify as ‘pastoral hauntology’ - a real genre, honest), therein lies some kind of connection, surely.
   Demdike, by the way, was the other name for a notorious 17th century witch, Elizabeth Southerns, of Pendle, Lancashire. Miles Whittaker also records as part of Pendle Coven. Perhaps that explains why this music gets such great reviews. I mean, you don’t want to take any chances and end up being cursed, do you? Perhaps these two like nothing more of an evening than to curl up on the sofa and watch Coronation Street rather than boil frogs and drink the blood of babies, but I’m not about to be the first to slate their music, just in case. Why should I? Everything they do hits the spot.

I’ve only just caught up with their album, ‘Osmosis’, and it’s easily The Best Album I Never Heard Last Year - a superb creation, packed with devilishly dark sounds, demonic (that’s enough black magic references) drones, dub and twisted techno-inflected treasures. Berlin – Detroit – Kingston...Manchester? Why not? I’m not sure whether they’re Mancunians, actually. The point about the album is that it’s cast a spell on me – I can’t stop playing the damn thing and I haven’t experienced that kind of obsession for a long time.
   ‘Haxan Dub’ (‘Haxan’ being a famous 1922 film about Devil worship) reduces the form to its bare minimum with snippets of percussion, subterranean bass and scratch rhythm. It’s a glorious take on the art just when I thought the genre had been exhausted. ‘Janissary’ is insanely infectious with its swirling strings and raggedy pop-synth melody dancing throughout. ‘Haxan’ gives the best of Basic Channel a run for its money, minus that label’s tendency to excessive length. ‘Conjoined’ is all tribal percussion topped by a light, teasing touch of techno counterpoint to the percussion.
   The album refers to genres without aping them. It’s all in the mix, the choice of samples and so on.
Now there’s ‘Forest of Evil’, which consists of two tracks, ‘Dusk’ and ‘Dawn’; enough to keep anyone occupied for many plays on a trip through their sinister world – a long journey into the night where strange thing go bump, swish, bang, thump – all expertly arranged so as to whip us into a ritualistic fervour. It does me, anyway.
   The tracks consist of ‘movements’, dare I say, without wishing to sound pretentious, and I especially like the latter part of ‘Dawn’, which begins with strings that become consumed by the crackle of technology and clanging of metal.
   The perfect horror soundtrack for a post-industrial world where something ghostly lurks in the machine.

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