Broken Waters Of Mykines
We’ve spilled no small amount of digital ink on this site discussing the fruitful nexus between bands with backgrounds in witch house and those in industrial which has emerged in the past couple of years. The intersection between witch house and goth has been trickier to map, both due to the utter lack of established critical respect afforded to anything much later than, say, “Dazzle”, and the tendency of some younger bands to erratically pull goth cliches (or even just the word) out to wear on weekends like a bad makeup job which is meant to show how truly truly truly outrageous they are (I blame Wavves). All of this drives your po-faced, Attrition-to-Ziyo loving correspondent up the belltower (goth is SRS BSNS, guise), and so the blend of darkness new and old which French duo Prosymna present on their second release feels like nothing short of a revelation.
At first blush, the occult thematics and imagery of Prosymna’s albums (and let’s face it, the fact that they’re dropping records on Phantasma) suggest that the duo of Wave Inside and Emi are native to the druggy, lo-fi sound we’ve heard so much of in recent years, but within minutes of listening to them you’ll realise nothing could be further from the truth. In short, Prosymna are first and foremost a goth by way of darkwave band who’ve simply absorbed a couple of stylistic tics from the past few years of witchery. Of course, all of this taxonomical wanking on my part amounts to a hill of bat poop if Prosymna’s music isn’t actually engaging or worthwhile. Broken Waters Of Mykines is handily both of those things and plenty more.
First full tracks “Obscure Prayer” and “Pristine Witch” introduce us to just about the full complement of sounds and moods Prosymna work with on Broken Waters Of Mykines (as well as how much richer their production and toolkit have become since their promising early 2012 debut). Grinding drums and gurgles are thrown into sharp relief by bright synths and strings, and lyrics of a metaphysical bent. The beats are far more trip-hop than trap, and the lushness of both Emi’s vocals and the melodic leads which they alight upon are as far from the muffled, heavily-compressed sounds which we so often hear from younger bands. Prosymna possess a much deeper knowledge of the history of dark music than the majority of their contemporaries, but more importantly apply that knowledge with aplomb. There are no shortcuts here, no smoke and mirrors excuses for not bringing heat and ingenuity to every moment.
It’s tempting to just reel off a list of bands new and old to triangulate Prosymna’s sound (I can imagine a promo sticker pitching it as “for fans of ∆AIMON, Collide, Grimes, Syria!”). But Broken Waters dynamism, exemplified by “Caged Dream”‘s crawling build, with Wave Inside’s growled vocals eventually ceding to Emi’s swirly tones reminds me of another French duo who used a similar gulf between male and female vocals to inflame already dramatic dark electronic work: Die Form. In other words, there is a distinct (if under-explored) tradition of the blend of darkness maintained by Prosymna on Broken Waters, albeit augmented by an open-minded embracing of current sounds and compositional confidence. Prosymna aren’t afraid to let entire songs drop off into near total silence for tense seconds before crashing in again (or reemerging completely reconfigured, as with the distinct phases of “Ascend” where ambient crawls buttress a stunning and immediate middle movement). That fearlessness is justified by the enveloping production, which attends perfectly to clarion calls and murky utterances alike.
I’ve been listening to Broken Waters almost nonstop for the past couple of weeks, and am relishing the mixture of familiarity and tension which it’s accrued for me. Vocal passages and stuttering percussive fills have handily worked their way into my brain, but their ebb and flow, the craftiness with which they emerge and disappear, is still inscrutable: a good portend for long-term listening. My sole regret is not having picked up Broken Waters sooner, as it doubtless could have carved out a spot in my year-end nominees. Prosymna get top marks here: Broken Waters of Mykines is beguiling, essential, and goth as fuck.