Kel Valhaal New Introductory Lectures On The System Of Transcendental Qabala

[YLYLCYN; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: free association, glitch, digital gregorian hardcore chant
Others: Death Grips, Atari Teenage Riot, Salem, Container

Context catches up with you. Light of day is unkind to servants of the dark, which is what’s made the genuinely genre-defying music of Liturgy such a consistently nagging conundrum. It is this sharp, bleaching light shower that throttles without the quaint signifiers of head banging and devil horns. The movement is centrifugal spill, and the gestures are inversely coiled arms. Rejection of crude impulse in favor of whatever blankness one can hope to achieve amidst an endless cycle of competing attention-subsistent phenomenon. Resolute punishment digestion. Elegant disruption. Poise at the moment of truth that never goes away. Poise that’s hypocrisy. Poise that’s blind idealism. Poise that’s pose. Feeling guilty…

Perhaps more of a way-station than a proper album, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix has crafted a lustily tangling tentacle bridge from Liturgy’s Ark Work, which, while being more than a little unwieldy, still ranks among 2015’s most compelling albums. Anthemic modes were both exploited and spun out with whirling, glitchy detritus. It remains a rallying spectacle that overwhelms exponentially, forcing the listener’s opiated brain to randomly zoom in and feel the instability and incompatibility of reality that has been pressed into intricate geometric patterns. One can aesthetically admire and marvel, minding the proper context of a piece of violent religious imagery, but a hand with a nail through it or a severed head on a necklace are still visceral triggers. The music of Liturgy and Kel Valhaal harness the brute forces innate to us all, but with a refreshingly warm wave of clinical dispassion. They are not leaning into their bad selves, so much as tarrying at the point where turmoil (and by extension, the inevitable demise of mankind through cumulative chaos) has gathered its strongest momentum.

Kel Valhaal’s debut is like Ark Work’s secret compartment. It boasts two veritable mushroom clouds of fearsome progression, flanked by five paraplegic flailings that serve to make these showstoppers pop. While “Tense Stage” may be the more cohesive central composition, the AT-AT-walker-with-windchimes-for-a-head procession that makes up most of “Ontological Love” is (almost) nothing short of flooring. I’m likely on record as being firmly against HHH’s non-screaming vocal style, but I can’t deny a begrudging admiration for his confident take on southern rap’s litanous, sing-song approach. It just fares better when it’s blended, as it is on “Tense Stage.” “Ontological Love” closes out with vocals that feel smeared on like a karaoke track. That being said, HHH’s melodic restraint notably tempers the oft irksome, keening quality of his shirt-rending emo timbre. The lurch-riddled traffic jams of the short selections may be tougher to get into, but they better show the emotional straight-jacketedness behind Ark Work’s stoic flexing. Especially on closer, “Bezel II” where Hunt-Hendrix’s vocal seems to rail against crumbling structures posing as shelter (I picture Annie Ross obliviously trying to sing “Conversation on a Barstool” above the massive earthquake toward the end of Short Cuts), his raw sustains rending and disintegrating amidst the raining debris.

While Introductory Lectures is fittingly brief, it is a massive, mad sluicing, burst-out mountainside abscess. Its vivid texture chews on your cerebral cortex like a feral guru while naked, emo singing like a philosophy major stumbling, hopelessly lost in the dense forest bordering their university. Its lushness is also its shrill, alarmist ear gouge. Its annoyance, its petulant, hunched over comfort in staggered repetition. Its eschatology, its irreverent sneering myopia. Bashing your head against a plethora of fetching horizons in succession. This is rhythmic distemper as opaque vitality. Blurred. Vanquished. But crouching patient. Decidedly not dead yet.

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