Locrian Drenched Lands / Rhetoric of Surfaces

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Rating: 4; 3.5/5

Styles: doom, drone, instrumental rock
Others: sunn 0))), Xasthur, Nadja

When approaching Locrian’s music, I'm half-aware that they are part of a Chicago noise scene that's perhaps filled with many bands in the same communal mold. If Locrian or their community are offended by my dilettantish suggestion that they are like an early Growing/ambient-black-metal hybrid, so be it.

As on Growing’s debut Sky’s Run Into The Sea, Locrian evokes both murky, damp granite tunnels and Phantasm-like marble mist, a gaseous disorientation that works against the tried and true metalisms in a gripping way. But whereas Growing’s album was about massive, committed dirge, Locrian are much more of a junk drawer, with John Carpenter-like analog keyboards and post-rock gloom progressions that are dropped suddenly more than they are built upon. There’s a dogged vibe of disjointedness that lends a mysterious quality, as though each track were the unidentifiable scraps of some unfathomably enormous ghost vessel.

The songs are swathes cut with swathes, managing to be both consuming and elusive as they sluice through. Drenched Lands opener "Obsolete Elegy in Effluvia and Dross" had me completely fooled, as I was ready to embark on some plodding, Mogwai-esque, melancholic sweller/receder. In the end, the track serves as a sort of shrugging off of those played-out progressions. It’s a brief, unassuming starting point that promptly screams downward through an enchanting swamp of dread, alienation, and terror. We’re not in Fantasia’s swamps of sadness, but the swamps of undestroyed, choking matter that we tried to ignore out of existence. It’s like waste rematerializing into new waste — waste that is never diminishing, only mutating into darker shades, mealier textures, and increasingly fetid smells.

The album's lower fidelity only adds to the overall novelty of this hyperbole-inspiring superdreck. It’s charmingly scaled back for being as dense as it is, as though you can hear members A. Foisy and T. Hannum hashing things out in real-time. It’s a very homespun sort of bile-churn that is as inviting as it is disturbing. Drenched Lands — soon to be released on limited-edition clear vinyl — is more of a proper album than Rhetoric of Surfaces, which is composed of split-single, CD-R, and live material. Both, however, share a decidedly haphazard feel; I don’t think a single track has a proper ending. Some are cut off abruptly, while others are faded out. But, like a lot of good noise, this lack of roundedness is not a deterrent, but rather serves to humble an approach to music that is unsentimental and chaotic.

These are not masterpieces, nor are they masturbatory pieces (though this may depend on your predilection for noise); they're hearty exercises in void-carving. It never gets boring, and it does justice to the art of litany and skree in ways that are refreshing, if not revelatory. Both albums are essential in this sense, but I’d sooner recommend Drenched Lands, as it’s a bit sexier-looking and the more varied of the two.

Drenched Lands:

1. Obsolete Elegy in Effluvia and Dross
2. Ghost Repeater
3. Barren Temple Obscured By Contaminated Fogs
4. Epicedium
5. Obsolete Elegy in Cast Concrete
6. Greyfield Shrines

Rhetoric of Surfaces:

1. Drosscape
2. Burying The Carnival
3. Gruen Transfers
4. Visible/Invisible
5. Chladni
6. Amps Into Instruments

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