Like the hidden soundtrack to Leviathan, this EP’s namesake is a slow, erratically rolling, scoured metal drum of woozy soft trauma. As keyed-in to distortion as Helm (a.k.a. Luke Younger) was on his previous EP (2013’s Silencer), a dull, wispy film of din hangs over, while the guttural purgatory pulses and seethes, eventually pulling back (“Zoom back camera!”) to reveal the titular instrument hymning away in an absent-minded fashion. Still and stoic, while the world around implodes. The pulse-speeding tribal ritual sacrifice of the opening track (“Carrier”) is squeezed out of the same deep, damnably serene recess. After a time, the ritual abruptly stops (perhaps because they saw Warren Oates and Peter Fonda peeping on them) for a fever-dreamy minute or so of squiggly underwater birdsong amidst the crumbling ruins.
The Hollow Organ has pipes, but instead of going straight up, they burrow deep underground, through primordial, multi-dimensional realms whose indeterminate soundings entice as much as overwhelm. It is an organ designed to absorb the strident malfunction of all that lives and churns and fires away without thought beneath it. It is an organ designed by its obstacles to be heard. It’s never been played and won’t be till it’s over. Murky, dank mechanisms volley crudely across the innards of this oblong beast with all the queasy, methodical pacing of a vintage slasher. There is a claustrophobia at play, as though these events were crushing each other into one unrecognizable surge in a botched non-effort at symbiosis. As the pipe narrows, the sound that results tightens around the ears, bearing down mercilessly on the adventurous listener.
This is nervily ponderous noise. It is very much panic attack-inducing, if you let it get to you (like a harrowing walk through the malfunctioning razor wire plant on a bad caffeine OD). One’s better off calmly studying it like the clouds of a devastating storm that is encroaching yet far off. Not that it’s so terrible to be put on edge. When you can coolly observe yourself feeling dread, it’s suddenly just a lucky thing to be present and lucid with a nightmarish environment. One can suddenly approach caution with caution and let Helm’s gray, clotty film cascade down the scene as you wrap your mind’s reaching fingers around the serrated, heat-damaged horizon like the handlebars on a shit-kicking motorcycle to anywhere else.
In the shadow of all that is towering in the realm of dark experimental music, there are many toiling away and perhaps producing decent but easy to trace results. There is an irresistibly signature feng shui to the wide-open-closed spaces Younger wrangles, a sense that you are experiencing something contained, like a harrowing, but hazy, randomly-captured incident. Along with the preceding EP and 2012’s Impossible Symmetry, The Hollow Organ shows a Helm release as something to be looked forward to. Hollow has never felt quite so full.