aufnahme + wiedergabe
We’re primarily accustomed to encountering Frédéric Arbour’s name in the context of the curation and release of dark materials, as the man behind the respected dark ambient/experimental Cyclic Law label. But Arbour produces his own work as well – in addition to his background in punk and metal, he’s currently releasing ambient work as Visions and teaming with Martin Dumais on the techno-industrial project Stärker. Arbour’s new work as Purgate pushes forward in a similar direction as that latter project, but finds some new and exciting noise by combining the aesthetic of his own label with that of a + w, who are releasing the project’s debut LP.
In Slaughter Natives’ classic Purgate My Stain LP was the first thing that came to mind when I saw a listing for Elemental, and whether or not that slab of meanness was being intentionally referenced by Arbour, it acts as a nice signpoint for the doomed mood, if not the specific sounds, of Elemental. The bulk of the record revolves around the pairing of slowly enveloping panoramas of noise and distortion with minimal, muffled beats which walk the line in both tempo and style between techno and martial industrial. The result is a record which feels industrial in the most classic senses of the term (impassive, foreboding, inhuman, unyielding) while also tapping into the current vein of impenetrably dark techno.
However you want to classify it, Elemental is a record that commits fully to a fatalistic if not outrightly nihilistic mood. The dying klaxon which groans atop a two-step beat on “Suture” directs a sense of imminent menace towards the listener while retaining cool, inner restraint – it’s an uncanny combination quite similar to the work of Vatican Shadow. The slow march of “Deluge” connotes the austere elegia of a funereal military procession, but also undercuts the dignity of any such proceedings with rank blasts of raw feedback. Imagine verdigris consuming a war monument.
Elemental strikes a winning balance between the classic and the modern, but more importantly it hones in upon a particularly dedicated and even hermetic approach to the styles on which Arbour as well as the rosters of Cyclic Law and aufnahme + wiedergabe cut their teeth. There are no shortcuts or trendy appeals here: you’re getting pure and unremitting darkness which knows its own origins and has no illusions about where it’s going.