8/29/2017

Review: ОРУЖИЕ - "Quiet Facts about Angels"


ОРУЖИЕ - Quiet Facts About Angels
(2017 velcroheadrecords)

"No real modus operandi," reads velcroheadrecords' mission statement. "No hope, no refinement. Record it live and put it out on tape. 

There's urgency embedded in the Montreal-based imprint's creative process, but the finished product's anything but hasty. Composed entirely of improvised jams, the debut full-length tape by label founder ОРУЖИЕ (Russian for "weapons") is a meditative -- sometimes mindstate-altering -- effort that acts as a translucent eggshell, clouding our view of some violent chemical activity taking place within.

Maybe it's more effective to think of it as an old TV monitor's screen, sending pinpricks of static through your fingers as you press them against the glass, protecting observers from the greyscale horror beamed by its cathode ray tube. Distant enough from the camera to appear small, the foggy outline of a human form moves from pinky to middle finger, ducking beneath your palm and then slowly peeking through the empty curve between the thumb and forefinger. Its face is like smoke -- a mass of billowing darkness against the floral wallpaper of the living room it inhabits.

Quiet Facts about Angels resides in a middle ground between David Lynch's sputtering The Big Dream and the often-atonal drum machine grooves that John Carpenter composed for Assault on Precinct 13. That's to say that despite its minimal atmosphere, throttled by lo-fi crunch, the record is downright cinematic in scope. Since much of the music here seems to have been made on the fly, the songs on Quiet Facts are structureless, gathering grime and abstract narrative as they hustle forth at approximately 120 to 130 beats per minute. Layers are laid down and shaved off one at a time, flirting with climactic releases of tension but never reaching them.


The top half of ОРУЖИЕ's playlist is loaded with gritty low-end thump that all but drowns out the clattering rhythms that bloom from it. "hornets" sways side to side on its crushingly-dense trunk of growling synth, leaving just enough space for glistening pads and a post-punk guitar riff to push through the surface -- it's all pretty reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle, though maybe more danceable (in theory). It's followed by a welcome intermission in the form of "autumn (diary ii)" before "batteries (1.1)" usurps the soundscape. The cut girds its four-on-the-floor kick with syncopated lashes of steely snare while standard house hi-hats keep the rhythm regular. Dissonant bell-chimes ring in the distance, indicating an off-screen ritual held in some post-apocalyptic wasteland that formed mid-Industrial Revolution. Though it appears early on, this 3-track sequence is the heart of the album, showcases its full array of textures and moods.

"saturn 1.01.0" ushers in the tape's more traditionally pretty second half. Phase-shifted synths trickle down sheets of nearly-lifeless horn samples. Save for slap-bass, the beat's fairly hollow, staring at the listener stone-faced, yet picturesque. It's the most upbeat song on the tape, but it's tinged with a sense of defeat, sprawled out on a couch and covered in sweat as it catches a much-needed nap after a hard day's work. "In Dust" is a solid ambient closer, undulating sultrily as a Badalamenti score while taking on the corroded quality of a silent film's score.

Instrumentally, Quiet Facts is a huge step into new territory for the former frontman of early Bandcamp emo duo Jackie Trash, but aesthetically, it's not. Just like any Linus Taylor project, ОРУЖИЕ finds a delicate balance between hushed beauty and rowdy dissonance, making for an effort that's sometime's sleepy, sometimes unbearably aggressive, but always engagingly weird.