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Fovea Hex, "Allure"

This release is a beautiful finish to Clodagh Simonds' beautiful Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent trilogy. It is as fabulous as the short previews available online have hinted it would be. There is a further increase in complexity and power, much like the progression from Bloom to Huge. The sound is less abstract but still ethereal, like a familiar setting enveloped in mist.


Die Stadt / Janet Records
Like the other two EPs, Allure is painfully brief (although at 25 minutes, it is significantly longer than the others) and is made up of three finely crafted pieces. As anticipated, the vocals throughout are exquisite. The lyrics convey a sense of extraordinary ordinariness, Simonds' knack for taking a normally unnoticed detail and turning it into something magical is strong. When she sings on the title track: "The sun pours in when the morning comes/And the floor's all gold," the effect is devastatingly moving. Allure is not just lyrically impressive, the music carries as much strength and emotion as Simonds' voice does. On "Allure," her words are backed by a gorgeous string arrangement delivered by John Contreras and Cora Venus Lunny. Both musicians playing to the mood of the song, Lunny's virtuosity shining through like the sun in the lyrics.

Lunny's father, Donal, makes an appearance playing bodhran on the following piece, "Long Distance." Simonds manipulates the sound of his percussion into something completely unrecognisable, instead of the throbbing beat of the bodhran, there is instead a dripping rhythmic noise, completely unlike the instrument's distinct character. Surprisingly, Robert Fripp also turns up on this piece. Electric guitar is not an instrument I thought would have worked within Fovea Hex but Fripp does not disappoint and makes it work perfectly. His playing veers between the straightforward and the sublime, a feat he nearly always manages. "Long Distance" is the most dramatic piece to come out of the Neither Speak Nor Remain Silent series, it is a fitting climax to say the least.

Unfortunately, production delays have meant that the bonus disc featuring The Hafler Trio's reworking of Allure is still not ready but will be sent out at a later date. What information is available about it is intriguing: it will be an hour long (much longer than the previous bonus discs in this series) and it will be the last new Hafler Trio work to be made available in a traditional audio format. Aside from already finished works awaiting release and reissues, this is the final audible broadcast from Andrew McKenzie. It is fittingly entitled "An Answer," although I expect like most of McKenzie's work, this answer will be cryptic and some time will have to spent thinking of the right question to go with it. Plans to move The Hafler Trio in a new direction are afoot but what direction this will be is still a mystery.

I cannot express how much I have enjoyed these EPs; each one has been a new exploration in beauty. My one hope is that Simonds follows her own tenet and does not remain silent. Her recent work both with Current 93 and Matmos suggests that she is eager to be heard but it is no surprise that her voice has been strongest with Fovea Hex. As such, I eagerly await further releases from this project and in the meantime, I will enjoy listening and re-listening to Allure as much as I have enjoyed the other two EPs.



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Review of the Day

SUNN O))), "WHITE 2"
Southern Lord
Masters of the stomach-churning, intestine-voiding, subharmonic frequencies, Steven O'Malley and Greg Anderson return for a sequel to last year's impressive White 1, not surprisingly entitled White 2. Much has been made of Anderson and O'Malley's transmogrification and mutation of their Nordic black metal influences into the slow-motion, doom-laden minimalism of their recordings as Sunn O))). Never mind that it isn't a very original idea, having previously been put forth by Seattle ambient sludge-core band Earth. Listen to the track "Ripped on Fascist Ideas" from Earth's live album Sunn Amps and Smashed Guitars for the origin of Sunn O)))'s sonic palette. To their credit, however, Sunn O))) have relentlessly pursued this aesthetic, going several steps further with their use of variable-speed tape mutations and other synthetic technology to create the lowest low-end feasible, with the possible exception of that lowrider that cruises through my neighborhood in the middle of the night blasting bone-rattling Miami bass. On White 2, they choose not to repeat the guest-vocalist tactics of the first White album, in favor of creating three lengthy, horror movie soundscapes that willfully test the limits of the stereo playback system, even as they revel in fascinatingly tangible textures. Although they approach their compositions from a completely different perspective, Sunn O))) arrive in the same general "dark ambient" territory as Lustmord or Lull, spinning vaguely cinematic post-industrial abstractions in which mood is the primary attraction. The fourteen doom-laden minutes of "Hell-O)))-Ween" are the most prototypical of the band: a series of brutally plodding riffs that are allowed to reverberate, slowly building up compounding layers distortion and bass rumble like slowly coagulating amber dripping down a prehistoric tree. It's crushing and dowtrodden, but it's nothing compared to the next two epic tracks of desolation and fear. "bassAliens" explores the lonely, claustrophobic corners just out of sight on Ridley Scott's Nostromo, haunted by the faint specter of menace, distorted subharmonic rumbles that sputter and mutate, spewing foul plumes of hydrochloric acid. What's remarkable about this track is the effective usage of higher-frequency tones and midrange atmospheric guitar plonks, which, juxtaposed with the jarring bass rumbles, create a vivid sound environment unmatched on Sunn O)))'s previous records. The album concludes with the 25-minute epic "Decay 2 (Nihil's Maw)," where Anderson and O'Malley are joined by legendary Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar for a frightening peak into the void. Listening to this track on an expensive pair of headphones is like staring into the empty, yawning chasm of oblivion, a screaming hole that sucks up sound and life itself. Dislocated from any recognizable sound source other than Csihar's multi-layered growls, shrieks and Odinic chants, a listener has no choice but to float towards the soul-shredding epicenter of the black hole, where ancient demonic forces gather and align to prepare for the final descent to zero. 


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