Pharmakon – Abandon

sbr099-frontObserving the attention that Pharmakon’s debut LP has received from “hip” media has been both strange and slightly embarrassing, as always seems to be the case that when the Pitchforks of the world set their attention on the more extreme and isolated genres of underground music. While even the most violent and obscure of metal are relatively well handled by more mainstream press at this point (I still remember when Unholy Cult was released and Pitchfork referred to it as a “black metal” album), the realm of power electronics is a new one for them. As such, in spite of the praise it’s received, I’ve read very little about Abandon that actually says much about it, at least in the context of power electronics as a whole. After seeing a certain reviewer describe this album as “industrial punk”, I decided it would be worthwhile to write some of own, hopefully more informed and critical, thoughts on Abandon.

After all, in spite of the hype, there is substance to be found here. When Sacred Bones records releases an LP, it’s almost guaranteed to be a quality work, and Abandon is no exception. From the introductory, agonized scream that becomes encoded into the harsh soundscape of “Milkweed / It Hangs Heavy”, Margaret Chardiet shows that she is no amateur at the grating and violent world of power electronics. It’s followed up with a rattling and cold chaos of scraping metal, clinking chains, and vocals distorted and twisted into an inhuman cacophony, before a heartbeat is paired with deep horns sounding the wild hunt and the disgusted and tormented shrieks return. So far so expected for a power electronics project, but Pharmakon has more up her sleeve throughout the album; grueling marches through bass frequencies low enough to pulverize concrete and bones, distant and ominous clean vocals that sound like the entranced mutterings of some Delphic oracle announcing doom, and surging rivers of twisted and disfigured electronics that weave their way into the deepest chasms of your mind. On a purely textural level there is an impressive amount of variation and depth to this short LP, which is an especially important element to any power electronics release, though it is only a piece of what makes an album compelling.

The flow of the songs and the album overall is equally important, and often neglected, to the goal of bringing the listener on a truly harrowing experience into the forgotten and rejected elements of the human psyche. Thankfully, Abandon does not disappoint here either. Each of the 4 songs is cloaked in it’s own identity, and while many power electronics releases are guilty of cramming their songs full of so much shit that any structure present is drowned in the wall of sound, a tasteful minimalism reigns throughout this cathartic spell; every sample, scream, and pulse of noise feels meaningful to the narrative of each song. In fact, in this sense it’s easy to see just why Abandon has been so quickly accepted by people who would normally never touch the likes of Genocide Organ or Nicole 12 with a sanitized glove. While it’s easily as harsh and unrelenting as any power electronics terrorist cell, it forgoes both the wall of sound approach and the anti-social subject matter inherent to the genre, and while this material is still far away from what you would call “palatable”, it is on the far end of accessible relative to the heritage it’s being drawn from.

Where does Abandon stand then? It’s a solid album; pleasingly violent and discordant while relatively accessible for those who aren’t deeply ingrained in the bizarre world of death industrial and power electronics. Is it as amazing as it’s been heralded by the taste-setters feeding from the hand of (the admittedly solid) Sacred Bones? Maybe not; it’s disappointingly short and the project still has a lot of room to grow at this point, but it’s still an impressive debut, and well worth a listen for those willing to subject themselves to a harrowing and painful, but somehow rewarding experience.

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~ by jakemoran on May 29, 2013.

One Response to “Pharmakon – Abandon”

  1. Great to see Pharmakon reviewed here. I don’t mind the hipsters noticing this and other non-mainstream noise, quality deserves attention and real quality will not be affected by hipsters’ zines opinions. I actually came across Pharmakon for the first time on Pitchfork. Been checking her out, great stuff. Intense.

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