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I Feel Like A Bombed Cathedral, "W"

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cover imageI am an enormous fan of this latest endeavor from Ulan Bator founder Amaury Cambuzat, as AmOrtH was easily one of my favorite albums of 2019.  Notably, this latest release marks the project's vinyl debut, which makes it the first album in which Cambuzat's real-time layering has had to contend with actual time constraints.  I was not sure how well that would work, as the core Cathedral aesthetic has always been to allow pieces to unhurriedly and organically unfold until they complete their "natural" progression (and the project's crowning achievement thus far is a piece that stretched out for 40 glorious minutes).  As it turns out, however, Cambuzat handled that challenge quite well.  Given the greatness of the opening "Indignation," it is entirely possible that he simply had a killer 20-minute piece in the vault just waiting for this opportunity to arise, but it is equally possible that he mathematically converted that duration into a fixed number of heartbeats and simply worked from that.  While the B-side is admittedly a more minor pleasure, I remain continually amazed by the depth and breadth of what Cambuzat can achieve with just a guitar and some pedals.  This is yet another excellent release.

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Given that all I Feel Like A Bombed Cathedral releases are essentially composed the exact same way, Cambuzat wisely did not bother to provide much information about W's creation or inspiration at all.  Instead, he opted for the far more appropriate alternative of creating a black and white promotional video of masked and hooded figures lurking ominously in a bleak winter forest.  The video has a very creepy "found footage" feel akin to The Blair Witch Project, which is very much an appropriate mood to convey for W's first half (and much of the project's past work as well).  While I cannot say that I am a huge fan of black metal imagery in general (at least not unironically), the image of Cambuzat as a lone, sorcerer-like figure haunting ruins and stark landscapes is a decidedly apt one, as it both distances this project from more ambient-minded experimental guitarists and emphasizes its ritualistic nature.  At its best, I Feel Like A Bombed Cathedral seems to lie somewhere between a trance state and a sort of ecstatic catharsis, as Cambuzat patiently builds harmonically rich and emotionally resonant soundscapes through the exacting accretion of layers.  Much like the similarly hooded Sunn O))), Cambuzat shares a lot of common ground with drone music, yet strives to transcend the form with a more maximalist approach to dynamics and intensity.  Unlike Sunn O))), however, the beauty of Cambuzat's work lies in steadily deepening and darkening harmonies rather than seismic vibrational power.

On the opening "Indignation," a single sustained note slowly undulates for roughly an entire minute before Cambuzat begins to unfold a slow-motion melody of swelling tones.  The piece soon takes on an eerie and majestic feel, but it does not linger in that shadowy, dreamlike state for long, as a bass-heavy heartbeat pulse soon injects a propulsive sense of purpose and forward motion.  As the heartbeat insistently throbs away, the layers of drones sneakily expand like fresh streaks of color in a haunting, smog-blurred sunset.  Cambuzat then intensifies the pulse of the piece through rhythmic splashes of chiming chords and that is the point where the incredible intricacy and precision of the piece starts to fully manifest itself, as some chords are deliberately out of phase or dissonant.  It is a beguiling balance of clarity, shadow, subtlety, and force, yet it gets even better when Cambuzat finally stomps his distortion pedal and the piece blossoms into wonderfully roiling sea of shifting, intertwined layers.  Even when the piece is at its full power, however, there is the ghost of a submerged melody lurking behind the cacophony.  It is a truly masterful feat of patience and elegantly controlled visceral intensity.  The following "Fear & Disorder," on the other hand, takes a very different direction, as Cambuzat's web of guitar loops embraces a very hazy and impressionistic tone, evoking a languorous bed of flutes and strings.  It is initially an unexpectedly warm and tender piece, resembling a time-stretched and deconstructed Debussy homage, but it gradually transforms into something evoking a desolate, windswept plane.  In its final moments, however, it unexpectedly opens up into slow-burning and darkly hallucinatory coda of blackened bass rumble and dissonant smears of spectral guitars that feel wonderfully supernatural.  Admittedly, the piece takes quite some time to get to that point, but it is an impressive pay-off nonetheless.

As far as I know, Cambuzat is still fully devoted to performing all of his pieces in real-time for this project, so some feats simply take longer to lay the appropriate groundwork for than others.  Viewed in that light, "Fear & Disorder" is a fascinating performance and a bold step outside the project's comfort zone rather than a composition in need of tighter editing.  When Cambuzat is at his best, however, he easily transcends the challenges and limitations of his unusual working methods: "Indignation" is gripping right from its first note and only gets better from there.  In fact, it is downright astonishing that this side of Cambuzat's artistry has only recently been revealed, as he is a goddamn drone shaman—I cannot think of any similar artists who share his seemingly unerring intuitions for texture, flow, tension, focus, or well-timed slashes of controlled violence.  From an execution standpoint, Cambuzat is likely a man without peer.  It legitimately boggles my mind that this project is not more well-known and appreciated than it is, especially in the wake of AmOrtH.  As far as I am concerned, that album still remains Cathedral's zenith, but W is not too far behind and "Indignation" adds yet another instant classic to Cambuzat's growing pile.

Samples can be found here.

Last Updated on Monday, 25 May 2020 06:53  


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