Tundra Dubs

The sad predictability of the internet’s music boom and bust hype cycle certainly didn’t do any favours for witch house. Indeed, while we were still trying to agree on what to call all the triangles n’ crosses bands (Drag? Rape Gaze? *shudder* ) the nascent genre was being strangled in the crib by the expectations that come with the “new hot thing” tag; before bands could even figure out what they wanted to sound like they were being lumped into a movement, built-up and then dismissed in short order. With much of the noise surrounding the music and the people who make it having subsided, it’s much easier to see the value in a record like ∆AIMON’s FLATLINER, an all-too brief EP which carries vestiges of the okkvlt but leaves behind most of the obvious sonic indicators in search of something altogether different.

The woozy, drugged up textures that are de rigeur for many of the bands gathered under the umbrella with ∆AIMON are in short supply on FLATLINER. The duo (who have cultivated an ambiguous sort of anonymity that plays more like apathy than a deliberate attempt to obfuscate themselves) are all about dark atmospherics of the less hazy variety, with various elements emerging as if from shadow rather than fog. There’s a pleasant clarity to songs like “Choke”, its male and female vocals seated in simple passages of piano and synth strings, occasionally punctuated by a sample of a gunshot, the sharp crack keeping matters from getting too lugubrious. The similarly patterned title track plies the same style, ratcheting up the intensity with a fuzzy bass sound on the chorus that crashes through the waves of hi-hats and delicate chiming synths. Those touches are ∆AIMON in microcosm, establishing a template and then gently overturning it via well-played bits of production and audio wizardry.

Perhaps the most characteristic thing about the EP is that all the tracks (6 on the vinyl, 7 on the digital release via Bandcamp) feel like actual songs rather than the bits of produced noise favoured by so many recent electronic acts in the slower-darker axis. For all their excellent use of studio technique, it’s the haunting melody of “Emptiness” and the back and forth arrangement of the organic sounds and synth bass on “Black Cross” that make them work. In a lot of ways the record puts me in mind of black metal-cum-experimentalists Ulver, specifically A Quick Fix of Melancholy, which similarly used songcraft and orchestration as an avenue to explore darker synthetic sounds. Redundant as it may seem to say it, ∆AIMON’s songs are specifically very musical, an important and worthwhile distinction to make in view of the artists and scene they’re associated with.

Beyond the nuances and specifics of the EP, there’s the sense that this is one of the first indicators of where the aesthetics of WH can be directed, and what can potentially be realized from them. For that reason alone ∆AIMON deserve kudos, although the fact that the EP is thoroughly enjoyable free of any conceptual or contextual musings is worth noting. Slow, dark, emotive and challenging, it’s tempting to label FLATLINER as “witch house how it should be done”. That said, I think it’s infinitely more interesting to see it as how witch house can be done, and for that it deserves your attention.

Buy it.