The Agnes Circle
End Result Productions/Manic Depression Records
London duo The Agnes Circle play things economically and close to the chest on their debut EP. Trading in a stoic style of postpunk with some dreamier coldwave flourishes, Modern Idea dashes through a wide cast of moods with nary a note going to spare. Even when they’re not threading the needle on a speedy nodder like “Sister Flux”, Florian Voytek and Rachael Redfern wring all they can from slower numbers; the plodding beat and core structure of “Venetian Boy” start dead simple, but in adding some slight guitar delay and some smoothly overlapping vocals, the tune gains far lusher connotations than an objective look at its mix might suggest. Modern Idea is a quick listen, not even clocking in at fourteen minutes, but it’s an effective enough flexing of muscle and range, even more impressive given that the band’s been a going concern for less than four months.
The cats in Severe Illusion just do not sleep. In addition to turning out releases under their primary moniker at a fair clip, there’s also their Instans side-project, Fredrik Djurfeldt’s solo Analfabetism project (formerly known as Knos), and probably half a dozen other vehicles for their cold and scraping textures of which I’m unaware. Other member of the duo Ulf Lundblad tosses in his two cents with a limited cassette EP (Kollaps may still have some kicking about if you ask nicely) of cold, ambient industrial. It’s obviously directed by the title of the project, but it doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to imagine the fluttering blips which are traced through “Radioskugga” as readings on a Geiger counter. The beats on “River Itu” aren’t so different objectively speaking, but the slight echo given to them and the less brooding and more processional mood of the pads and hum around them lends a more strident feel. Things shuffle into stuttering, crawling chaos on closer “Visklekar Del 1”, in which it sounds as though a host of chaotic imps have taken over the machinery and are tinkering about with it for unseemly ends. Factor in the tape hiss and you have yet another direction in which the cold forces of SI can be pulled to unsettling yet ultimately satisfying effect.
Worms Of The Earth
I’m not quite sure of where to place Worms Of The Earth’s recent releases in terms of dark ambient history. Yes, Dan Barrett’s last few releases have been a far cry from the band’s early powernoise sound, and he’s been using the Venal Flesh side-project to keep a hand in a more aggressive style while exploring tribal industrial and dark ambient under his main moniker with albums like Anāgāmi and Azal’ucel. But as new release Sitra Achra shows, Worms Of The Earth eschew most of the more common formal approaches to dark ambient composition, or, to be blunt, long and slowly shifting or developing tracks. Check the first couple minutes of opening track “Malkuth” for an example: we quickly cycle between plucked strings, industrial gates sliding shut, snippets of mezzo-soprano voice too brief to fully catch, breathy samples, and slithering pads. Any of these component parts might appear in dark ambient as we conventionally use the term, but having them all bloom and circle about within a mix so rapidly produces a uniquely psychedelic effect. In Slaughter Natives might be the handiest comparison to make, but even on slower and more grinding tracks like “Thagirion” Barrett seems to be striking upon a florid mix of sound design and composition all his own, capable of casting the mind off in a myriad of directions distinct from even those Swedish legends. With the previous two WotE releases Barrett successfully experimented with finding a new voice and spirit for the project, but in consolidating that journey with Sitra Achra he has legitimately established himself as a producer in the broader dark music fields (leaving aside specific sub-genres) who simply cannot be overlooked.