• Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Human Greed, "Black Hill: Midnight at the Blighted Star"

cover imageThe third album from Michael Begg and Deryk Thomas explores the moods and sounds of the witching hour: deep, dark chasms of sound littered with shimmering tones that dot the music like stars on a night sky. This album is good by day but playing it during the still, cold hours of early morning reveal a different hallucinatory creature. Instruments morph out of recognizable shapes into extended timbres and tones, voices call from somewhere beyond and an uneasy sorrow permeates the music.


Lumberton Trading Company

Black Hill occupies a realm that is somewhere between the gorgeous drones of Stars of the Lid and the haunting and solemn “Symphony No. 3” by Henryk Górecki. However, unlike the aforementioned artists, listening to Black Hill is like listening to a radio that cannot stay on one frequency for more than a few minutes before drifting into some other equally compelling broadcast from who knows where. No piece ends distinctly, the various tracks all fade into each other but change enough for it to be obvious when a new piece has begun. This bleeding of music into itself forces the listener to commit the album as a whole. This is something that has been lacking in this “I’ll just grab a couple of tracks from the net and see what I think” age.

That being said, there are segments of Black Hill that stick out above the rest as being especially moving. The organ-like dirge of “Portrait of God with Broken Toys” seems to erupt from the speakers with a huge amount of force. It is an overpowering feeling like being stuck in a massive cathedral that is shaking itself apart during a performance of a particularly moving requiem. Elsewhere, the music has a gentler quality; “Dalkeith Night” has a light, airy feel to the piano while David Tibet recites a few words. He is one of a few special guests on the album: Julia Kent plays cello, Fabrizio Palumbo from Larsen is credited with treatments and vocals and Begg’s compatriot in Fovea Hex, Clodagh Simonds, lends her voice and piano playing to the album.

Thomas’ paintings must be mentioned. As well as being half of Human Greed, Thomas has also painted the iconic bunnies on Swans’ White Light from the Mouth of Infinity album and more recently the cover of The Angels of Light’s We Are Him. His apocalyptic nursery rhyme style painting that graces the cover of Black Hill continues the theme of those previous great album sleeves. Kittens, skeletons and catastrophic ruin provide a warning to all who listen to the album; this is not music to chill out to after a night on the tiles.

This is powerful stuff and takes a while to fully digest it. The oily darkness that the music conjures up gets deeper and deeper with every listen, a resonant and otherworldly tremor that is at once human and sublime.



The Eye: Video of the Day

The Sea and Cake

YouTube Video

read more >>>

Review of the Day

Philip Jeck always seems to surprise and surpass expectation every time I hear him perform. I've heard him spin out haunting loops for avant garde dancers to strut about to in art spaces. I've heard him spin stickered platters alongside guitarist Vergil Sharkya and fractal videographer Gerd Willschvetz in an underground car park in Liverpool. I've heard his scaffolded ranks of old car boot turntables mash up crackly memory traces from worn needles bumping into wires and stickers in a London gallery. I've heard him go walkabout at a festival opening, cutting up dictaphone recordings with the pause button. After his ambitious quartet of lengthily (r)evolving 'Vinyl Codas' released by the Intermedium label, he returns to Touch with seven shorter live excerpts from performances in Liverpool, Manchester, Osaka, Tokyo and Vienna. With only a single sample Casio keyboard to aid the junkyard turntables spinning varispeed deteriorating vinyl, he necessarily limits his options but unlocks endless potentials from abundant alternate histories coded in the grooves. When he loops records at low speed, worn old cliches morph into haunting new textures. A phantasmal keyboard hoot that forms the bedrock of "Pax" sounds like it might've morphed slowly from a cheesy old J. Geils Band charity shop hit. "Above" cuts scratchy old vinyl into train chug clunks and chicken squawk with some slowed speech narration to explain what exactly isn't going on. "Lambing" is a home recording, soundtracking a film by Lucy Baldwyn, and wouldn't sound out of place on his previous Touch CD 'Surf,' with groaning ghost vox repeating an eerie refrain over the crackle'n'drone spin, until slowly a sunrise glow cracks dawn beneath the locked groove rhythm faultlines. "Vienna Faults" waltz around like a music box in a tumble dryer. There's some crazily mangled sitar "Below," reversing into hollow metal hammering, cut dead by a sudden descending blues guitar riff. "Open" seems to rework familiar noises from 'Surf' into a noisier delayed clatter. "Close" does just that, with some more sitar loops, more meditative but just as playful as before. Stray starry plucked fragments drop in at odd angles until a loop locks and deteriorates to a stutter as a single piano note bashes to infinity. A ghost choir of Hamaiian folk singers emerges from the vinyl crackle fog to bid a fond farewell. If you haven't heard Philip Jeck before, this is not his most immediate recording and 'Surf' or the 'Vinyl Coda' series might be better ports of entry. He has not yet left the building.



read more >>>

Login Form


Donate towards our web hosting bill!
		at the iTunes store