Hello folks! Welcome to a new podcast endeavor here at From Corners Unknown. It took me a decent while to settle on a name for this series, but I think “Lost Transmissions” aptly encapsulates what I’m attempting to do here. I almost went with the title “Sh*t Ryan’s Missed”, but I didn’t want to misconstrue the idea that the albums I’m covering in this series are excrement. Actually, quite the opposite. The goal, thrust, essence, whatever you want to call it, of this series is to illuminate for you all more albums that I have been sincerely enjoying as of late. These are records I’ve yearned to discuss in a long conversation format with Connor, but as you could understand, there’s only so much time in a week for both he and I to dissect albums with the depth we strive for. Hence the creation of this new series.
The format and structure of this series are still being kneaded, but it can be summarized as follows: me, all by my lonesome, reviewing three releases in a succinct five to ten minutes apiece. Unheard of, right? Since when have any of our podcast episodes been under the half-hour mark? Don’t answer that. Ultimately, I want this series to be a focused effort where I provide you more pointed recommendations amidst the interviews and long-form reviews Connor and I piece together week-over-week.
To inaugurate this series, I selected three albums that have been in constant rotation for me several weeks over. In order of discussion, we have the debut LP, Building a Better World, collaboratively produced by vaporwave artists 猫 シ Corp. and t e l e p a t h, from the burgeoning ambient record label, Hiraeth Records. Then we have Sepulchral Blessing from the utterly vile black ambient/death industrial artist, Clavicvla. And lastly, there is Ocean Is More Ancient Than the Mountains, the latest two-track EP from the instrumental stoner-doom juggernauts, Plague of Carcosa.
If you don’t feel keen to listen to this episode, I included the text of each review below. Please note that the style of writing is a bit more casual than what you may typically expect as I am aiming for a more conversational approach for this series. Thank you so much for tuning in.
1. 猫 シ Corp. & t e l e p a t h – Building a Better World
Genre: Vaporwave / Ambient
Building a Better World is the debut LP for a rather fledgling, yet burgeoning record label named Hiraeth Records. It was collaboratively produced by artists 猫 シCorp. (Cat System Corp.), who owns and operates the label, and t e l e p a t h. The album was unveiled in July of 2019 and I discovered it via the tag search functionality on Bandcamp.
What immediately grabbed my attention about this record was its pixelated artwork. Saturated in hues of violet and royal purples against a balmy sunset, the scene dredged up a keen sense of nostalgia and wonder. I think the nostalgia stems from my inherent love for videogames, particularly those of the era I grew up with. Mario, Castlevania, Banjo Kazooie, and the like are a few I can think of off the top of my head. And while this album doesn’t necessarily capture the tone and mood of those games specifically, it seems to grace a nerve that makes me yearn to return to those years of experiencing those games for the first time.
The essence of this feeling is aptly encapsulated in the name of the record label. Hiraeth is of Welsh origin and it’s an idea/concept that roughly translates to a longing for home. On the Hiraeth Records website, they even provide a few definitions of Hiraeth and one that I find particularly fascinating is that it could mean the grief for the lost places of your past.
As you may have gleaned through episodes past, I am quite fond of ambient music in all of its various permutations. Dark ambient is my most favorite flavor and this should come as no surprise based on the litany of reviews Connor and I have conducted here on the website. Generally speaking, I love ambient music because of the mental vistas it paints. I have often thought of the genre as a portal into the past or the unsullied essence of a mood frozen in time. It allows my mind to wander through rich, phantasmagoric constructs woven by the hands and machines of a given artist and this imbues within me with a sense of intimacy whereby I am learning about a place, be it astral, metaphysical, or corporeal that is inherently compelling to the artist. It’s almost like I am receiving a transmission from the mind of the artist, venturing across the sonic landscapes most important or fascinating to them, while simultaneously crafting my own personal story and chronology of what is transpiring in this abstract space.
Okay, so Cat System Corp., based on my research, appears to have existed since about mid-2013. He is a solo, self-deemed vaporwave artist as is t e l e p a t h. To be completely frank, I have a vague semblance of what vaporwave, the genre, is, but I cannot say I’ve intentionally sat down and listened to an album from the genre. According to the Wikipedia (I know, chastise me), vaporwave is a “microgenre of electronic music that emerged in the early 2010s as an Internet meme.” (source) Supposedly this genre was born from a womb of irony as a variant to chillwave music, another genre I know fuck all about. I won’t go on a long diatribe about the origins of the vaporwave, but according to Wikipedia, an artist by the name of Xavier released an album titled Floral Shoppe in 2011, which is allegedly the blueprint for the genre. And after sampling pieces of that album, I can see and feel the similarities in Building a Better World.
There is something oddly nostalgic about vaporwave and this album in particular. What immediately drew me into this record, beyond its artwork, is its heavy use of what I’m guessing to be samples of the modern world crossbred with organic, field recording-style textures. Curtains of rain fall in perpetuity as gaping swells of enchanting synth wash across the chrome structures of an advanced civilization some several hundred years in the future. Its myriad tones are warm and enveloping and they suspend me in a state of tranquility as it seamlessly flows from one dreamlike expanse to the next. You can hear the hubbub of this civilization ricochet and echo across each composition. Voices distant and washed out rise like steam from storm drains as cars, monorails, and airborne crafts hustle and whirr across an amethyst-tinged canopy.
Though despite the general glow permeating this record, I receive a vague sense of isolation and alienation. This is likely due to some of the album’s nostalgic textures as nostalgia tends to leave me feeling a titch depressed yet simultaneously hopeful; however, I get the sense that regardless of how advanced and perfect a civilization like this could be, it, in a sense, gnaws at our humanity as natural landscapes and formations are replaced by artificial material and an endless sea of spires that stretch up toward the sky. And this sentiment is further promulgated by the hazy feeling that several of these tracks sound like a heightened form of elevator music. Though that may sound like a derogatory description, I actually find this to be a charming quality as it straddles the line of sounding clinical and futuristic, yet simultaneously calm and hypnagogic.
On the whole, this album breezes by each time I play it. Though it can be quite obvious where one track ends and another begins, the synthesis of sounds from an advanced civilization blended with those of the primordial world make for a wistful listening experience.
2. Clavicvla – Sepulchral Blessing
Genre: Black ambient / Death industrial
All right, so I opened up this episode with what I described as a rather warm and tranquil album, but let’s take a header into a subterranean sea of piss, shit, and mummy tissue. This album is Sepulchral Blessing from the Italian artist Clavicvla. Note that the ‘u’ is replaced with a ‘v’ because they’re k v l t.
An aura of mystery shrouds Clavicvla insofar that, one: who they are is not known, and two: they seemingly emerged out of thin air with some utterly repugnant dirges. If you’re somewhat familiar with say solo black metal projects, it should come as little surprise that some artists, irrespective of genre, endeavor to keep their identity wholly under wraps. Now, being human and all, I typically want to know who the hell is making the music I’m listening to. And if that information is not readily available, I’ll typically strive to unearth the face lurking behind the instruments or screens. However, in recent years, I have grown to embrace the self-imposed mystery by these artists, particularly because it keeps me a nautical mile away from gleaning a single iota of insight about their character, which in turn allows me to submerge myself deeper into their compositions and feel more disconnected as a result. The TL;DR version of that sentence salad is: the less I know about the artist, the more alien the atmosphere they produce feels.
Though I am describing a characteristic of what I have observed in some black metal projects, Clavicvla is anything but. Some black metal influences do take shape within Sepulchral Blessing’s runtime, but it reeks of so many other abhorrent textures, moods, and genres. The album actually rests in exsiccated veins of death industrial and what the Bandcamp description notes as black ambient. I’ve never heard of the descriptor ‘black ambient’ before, but it seems analogous to dark ambient in that if we think of dark ambient as the penumbra of ambient music, black ambient would be the umbra, or the darkest shadow cast. (As a quick aside, another artist that comes to mind that resides in this style is Dronny Darko, specifically his 2014 release, Outer Tehom. That is an album I highly recommend if you have not had an opportunity to peruse it).
Before I dive into describing the music, I should note that this album dropped via the Oakland-based record label, Sentient Ruin Laboratories, in November of 2019. And about one year prior to this, Clavicvla debuted on the same label with his album, Sermons.
So listening to Sepulchral Blessings is an absolute treat if you’re into Stygian atmosphere, a piercing sense of claustrophobia, and you possess the desire to be forever entombed amongst a throng of dusty husks. Immediately you are struck with a pungent, stifled odor that crawls behind your uvula, splotching your esophagus with an arcane black mold through each breath taken. Baritone bass frequencies pulsate in a rhythmic fashion and echo a mood of misanthropy akin to Genocide Organ and other caustic power electronic outfits. Though behind these bassy undulations, you can feel the stagnant air hang. It permeates each track to conjure a harrowing sense of indifference as each breath you draw brings you seconds closer to asphyxiation. Static and other unkempt electronic vibrations ooze from the walls of timeworn stone. And lethargically are these death metal-style vocals disgorged at a ritualistic tempo. They are lathered in acerbic noise and with every utterance, I feel as if an incantation is driving a wedge behind my corneas to usurp control over my mind.
As you could likely surmise based on my descriptions thus far, this album is devoid of any light or fulgor. It is culled from a most primordial stew, a bile that has festered for millennia in a charnel buried fathomless depths beneath the Earth’s crust. And even with all of these descriptions, I failed to mention the litany of old-world instruments that steep this album in ancient lore. Gongs pang and murmurs from spirits malignant elevate the milieu to a blood-curdling freeze. Odd drum strikes and scurries of foreign strings slice your skin, peeling back your hair to metastasize in your blood stream.
As the album title suggests, Sepulchral Blessing is a funereal affair with not a single tendril of warmth finding its way to grace your skin. It’s glacial and despondent, yet simultaneously mesmerizing in its drone constructions. If you’re keen on draining your bone dome like a sieve, then wander the decrepit cobblestone staircase spiraling downward into this heinous abyss.
3. Plague of Carcosa – Ocean Is More Ancient Than the Mountains
Genre: Stoner doom
From: Chicago, IL
If you’re a long-time listener of this podcast, the band name Plague of Carcosa may ring a faint reminding bell. This instrumental stoner doom leviathan actually marked my foray into podcasting. I was, unsurprisingly, timid to put myself out there a couple of years ago, but Carcosa’s lead guitarist and riff spellcaster, Eric Zann, provided me the first genuine nudge to speak with him and other artists in a long-form conversation format. For that, I have always held Plague of Carcosa is high regard as if it were not for them, I would not be here rambling to you today.
As a tangent, I should note that if you want to hear a serious transformation in my comfort level of speaking into the void podcast-style, go check episode one. However, I should caveat this journey, if you so choose to take it, with a warning to the potential cringe you may suffer. Let’s just say a lot of progress has been made since that fated autumnal day.
As I noted a moment ago, Plague of Carcosa is a two-piece behemoth that stomps at a sluggish pace, likely due to an over indulgence of deep sea devil lettuce. Jokes aside, these dudes atomize your sanity via burr holing your cranium with infectious riffs. Originally inspired by Bongripper, Eric formulated Plague of Carcosa to, in a sense, pay respects to the impact the band left on him and the seedy underbelly of the Chicago doom scene, of which both artists are denizens.
And if the name were not obvious enough, Plague of Carcosa is a reference to the weird horror fiction of yore. A mystical place originating in a short story from Ambrose Bierce, Carcosa was a scantily described city, kingdom, what have you, that later became a prevalent location in Robert Chambers’ work The King in Yellow, which then inspired the infamous H.P. Lovecraft. If you cannot already tell, I absolutely adore weird fiction, especially as the descriptions of Carcosa are vague enough to allow my mind to fill in the horrors, secrets, and monstrosities residing in its palisades.
Okay, I’m starting to trail off, so let’s finally turn our attention to this two-track EP. What sincerely blows me away about this outfit is the meatiness of their tone. For there being only a single guitarist, Eric, by some unknown wizardry, shades every crevice of their aural canvas with rich foams of cerulean and gaping swathes of onyx. Though this description of mine may lead you to believe that their sound is utterly bleak, it’s actually surprisingly warm. Each strum oozes sodden grime and as they resonate, you can hear the faint sizzling of seemingly stochastic noise; however, it manages to lull me into a state of calm. I think this is partially due to the inviting timbre of the guitar and its production, but above all, it’s where those riffs take me.
I don’t think it’s terribly uncommon to possess a fear of the ocean. Fuck, but who knows, maybe I’m one of few sorry sods who feels a bolt of fear skitter down my spine when I gaze upon oceanic horizons. Contemplating that uncharted territory beneath those tumultuous waves can render my skin numb, yet there exists a kernel of ineffable splendor that burns the longer I stare. And in a strange way, the adventurousness the riffs seep ignite that kernel with utmost fervor, compelling me to set sail into the unfurling unknown.
As the riffs churn an imposing tide, the drums beckon us to trudge ahead. Deafening they strike with titanic heft, propelling us forward while simultaneously sloshing us about with off-kilter fills. There’s this peculiar sense of momentum he creates. In kinetic spasms, he’ll unleash these slick flourishes, but almost immediately return to the primary driving groove. Also, instead of playing in a manner that you may expect from a typical doom metal outfit, i.e., a glacial, caveman-like beat, this dude clamors non-stop with intoxicating intensity. Amidst the never-ending swell of gurgling azure, bolts of scurvy-riddled feedback lacerate your ears. And these near nausea-inducing textures call to mind rather vivid cinematic qualities. In one dimension, I imagine being adrift at sea and those harsh squawks are spewing from the bills of obnoxious seagulls that are trying to snag my meal from a day-long effort of fishing. But more in line with the band’s aesthetic, I’m leaning toward the more appropriate imagery of every synapse in my brain being liquefied as I catch vague glimpses of a crawling chaos lurking just beyond the surface.
Without beating my analogies to death, I must say that this EP excels at imbuing in me a sense of isolation while simultaneously dredging up a primeval itch to explore terrifying expanses that no human dares to wander. Though the EP clocks in at around 18 minutes, the riffs in tandem with the fiery drumming spread like a contagion through your bloodstream. It’s one that I have listened to back-to-back-to-back several times over because of the perplexing vistas it paints throughout its duration.
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You can snag digital or physical copies of each record above by visiting the hyperlinks to each label’s respective Bandcamp page.
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