The Secret Barbarous Names
We’ve long since given up trying to triangulate each of the projects and handles of dark music Renaissance man Henrikk Nordvargr Bjorkk, but even his eponymous project is finding new modes of expression fourteen years in. New EP The Secret Barbarous Names can comfortably be described as ritual dark ambient, but by constructing each of the five tracks’ sounds entirely from vocal samples, Bjorkk maintains a frisson often lacking in studiously arcane Stygian fare. You’re never quite certain when a low and muddled drone which has been hovering in the background is going to rise and take form, suddenly transforming into clearly enunciated (if not still indecipherable) summonings of Egyptian nether-beings. No matter the purpose the very particular instrumentation palette is lent to on the EP, though, things sound consistently rich and immaculately arranged. Indeed, Bjorkk’s spent so long bending all manner of noise to his will, whether working in EBM, noise, or death industrial, that he’s well adapted to the balance of texture and slow compositional progression this brand of dark ambient requires. As is my customary caveat, I can’t speak to the relevance or potency of these particular incantations with regards to the hermetic traditions they speak to, so do your own research before busting this out at yr local O.T.O. mixer, but The Secret Barbarous Names have been rewarding and recommended companions for quiet times with scotch around the HQ these past couple of weeks.
Raw as a peeled-off scab, Houston’s Spit Mask bring a fistful of BDSM-themed, lo-fi industrial fun to bear on their debut tape (though their name’s connection to a constraining device apparently used solely by cops brings other power dynamics to bear). Plenty of the surface elements of Swallow call early Youth Code to mind: stripped-down instrumentation and production which rely on brute force above all, submerged but red-lined screaming vocals. While it’s certainly a fair enough comparison , I think there’s an important distinction which is likely to go overlooked: Spit Mask are cleaving far more closely to the harsh, moody rhythms of early dark electro. “Easily Intimidated”‘s pads are pressed onto a violent mesh of looping rhythms in a way which almost grows hypnotic with repetition, while “Chokechain”‘s juxtaposing of tinkling, minor chimes with full-force, barked lyrics brings early Leaether Strip to mind. In short, Swallow is much closer to The Mesner Tracks than it is I Staggered Mentally. With a six-track tape this lo-fi (I think “Chokechain” might actually suffer from some unintentional compression) it’s tough to get a grasp on where things might proceed from here, but in the interim Swallow is a blast of strict and punishing excitement.