I can recall exactly three times in recent memory in which music has truly, physiologically frightened me in public: blaring Sunn O)))’s Black One on headphones on a sunny, cloudless day, wading through a sweaty sea of college kids, paranoid as fuck that one of them would turn into some sort of day-walking vampire and bite my throat off; cranking Pharmakon’s Abandon just loud enough that its primal screams passed my hearing threshold as I sauntered through an empty, labyrinthine academic building after a final during my senior year of college; and, with meditative intent, heeding Raime’s anxious drones on Quarter Turns Over a Living Line as I reclined one evening in a courtyard outside of my building, serenity slowly fading away as sonic specters replaced birdcalls.
My first listen of Tooth was muted by my expectation that it would haunt me. Quarter Turns felt like it was culled into being through some sort of dark ritual process; Tooth, noticeably stripped down and urgent by comparison, feels like that ritual process itself, like some kind of public, pre-hunt rite. Opener “Coax” wastes no time drawing in its prey (us) with alluring bass thumps, bait hooked onto a tangle of thorny guitar barbs. It’s a swift battle cry, signaling a subsequent and unceasing pursuit for our senses, but unlike Quarter Turns, its movement is anything but subtle. Tooth, inspired by Raime side project Moin, is more dub than it is drone, more “acting out” than it is “prolonged anxiety,” yet its pitch-black execution remains distinctly pulled from Raime’s tactical handbook.
Whatever spirit possessed me after first hearing Quarter Turns now spikes up my adrenaline every time I play Tooth, but as I become more and more familiar with its particularities as a sound object, I find myself more focused on how each planned movement will affect me once it is performed; repetition of Tooth is an exercise in monitoring personal reactions rather than in suspending expectations of change. Romping around in its soundscape is like playing laser tag in a field in broad daylight: nothing is concealed, making every step that much more nerve-wracking.
And yet, my expectations continue being sniped down by Tooth. Its intensity and aggressiveness reveal Truths about Raime’s process that “process music” can’t really tap into. By simplifying its plan of attack this time around, Raime has showcased what has moved its members throughout their lives and careers, what will hopefully captivate their listeners: industrial (“Front Running”), classical minimalism (“Glassed”), dub (“Stammer”), experimental (every single track), and although I can’t say it makes me shiver quite like Quarter Turns Over a Living Line has, Tooth now occupies an even more obscure category in my sound memory: records that make me reconsider my expectations and reflect on career trajectories while also kicking my ass.