Anne Carson once said, disavowing herself, “Homer’s a poet. […] I would say I make things.” “Poietic,” and not merely poetic, one might say, were one inclined to fabricate. And so Carson’s ‘things’ are word-works, built and expansive. They move, almost effortlessly, between Isaiah, Simonides, Keats, and Artaud, between the revelation and the sonnet and the libretto; a species-worth of literature weaves in and out of itself by the hand of a writer working the exposed relics of our written languages, the vast accumulation of our words. And it is not the charm of novelty or experimentation, but a serious knowledge of the material and the strength of her voice that leave me amazed.
These are the thoughts that run through my mind as I listen to Locrian’s newest album, The Clearing. I include them not as a showy digression, but because they adequately sum up the way in which I’ve been able to approach the album at hand. Like Carson’s ‘things,’ what strikes me about The Clearing is how evocative it is, beyond being merely referential and without resorting to pastiche. Locrian lay their influences, boldly, on the table: One Eyed God Prophecy, and the best from Neurosis and My Bloody Valentine, Burzum and Sonic Youth. However, they do not explicitly perform any of these artists’ works. And I suspect that the need to claim them has less to do with style than mood. Locrain seem less interested in mimicry than in building sound-things out of the atmospheres of their predecessors, and they’ve given themselves some of the greatest contemporary resources to draw from.
However, I find myself claiming, upon them, my own perceived influences as I listen through The Clearing. The opening track, “Chalk Point,” wanders through a dark piano pattern and soaring psychedelia, all along evoking Godspeed You! Black Emperor, without histrionics, and the best of Ash Ra Temple. “Augury in an Evaporating Tower,” all too briefly, bursts out like the blizzards of Paysage d’Hiver — surrounded by freezing and blurred, like the sense of enclosure established in Wintherr’s compositions. “Corprolite,” electronic and acoustic, evokes something un-classifiable akin to Svarte Greiner or the spaces of Xela’s recent trilogy. The final track, “The Clearing,” nervously pulses along into desolation for 18 minutes, strangely evoking at once the work of Can and Khanate. However, Locrian are none of these artists. They are like citations without quotations, contemporaneous and uncanny.
The Clearing, fundamentally, is a work of experimentation, hybridization, and cross-breeding; however, as each song carries forward a unique aesthetic sensibility, there is a dark cohesion and a synchronous mood throughout. Unifying dark ambience, noise, drone, black metal, and psych, it would seem as if Locrian wanted, simply, too much from a single work. And yet on The Clearing they are masters of economy, and have formed their album into an utterly unique and precise sound-work that, even as it evokes so much, feels remarkably original — in particular, amid the bland ‘experimentation’ that happens in so much US black metal — and continuously draws this listener, entranced and amazed and a little frightened, back into itself as a singular, haunted entity.