Pharmakon Devour

[Sacred Bones; 2019]

Styles: gluttony, starvation, “Alice grows big as she grows small”
Others: Heavens to Betsy, Uniform, Sibling, Lydia Lunch

How strange it is to have a body at all. Or, how strange it is that it isn’t strange for some to have a body. Being a body versus knowing that one is a body emerges as a dividing line — how much do you think about your body? Devour exists within this fault line: as a body being consumed by a world and as a body consuming parts of the world, as a shrinking body among growing systems of control and as a growing body determining its place against such mechanisms, as a voice escaping a corporeal form and a form being remade by voices.

Pharmakon’s voice traverses Devour’s textured rhythms and spurting feedback, serving as antagonist and guide. From the modulation and distortion of “Homeostasis” to the delay and low register of “Spit It Out,” to the momentary clarity of “Self-Regulating System” and back to the ricocheting uncertainty of “Deprivation,” Margaret Chardiet’s voice weaves together the noise pricking at the body’s surface and a deeper sense of something coming from inside the body. The voice and the various effects applied to it push and pull against the skin. A sense of unease that is also a sense of knowing again what a body already knows — “an awareness you cannot think or say, only feel,” as stressed on “Pristine Panic.”

Synthesized sounds, those electric whispers that escape the husks of metal bodies, pound away. Subtle variations, growing intensities, aborted directions, monotonous instants — everything centering on the push and pull between regimented, industrial order, and ecstatic escape. Within this, Chardiet’s voice brings us back to our bodies. Lost in a sense of being consumed by shrieking tones, her voice centers through the phased blurriness and clarity. The pain and the ringing in the ear not as erasure, but as the remembrance of being a body, something that needs others for life, something denied what it needs.

Noise, as performance style, runs the risk of decomposing bodies. Lost in wires, encumbered by knobs and pedals, and distracted by the extremity of sound, it’s easy to become enveloped in abstraction, separate from corporeality. Pharmakon, as a performer and composer, continues to force ignorant minds back into their physical forms. As a propulsive work, fueled by immediacy and intensity, Devour rejects the attempt to escape the body through the gear-consumed noise fetishist. It’s a reminder of the limits of the body as a site of power, strength lying within the body’s fight against the world that imposes limitations. A scream echoing against another unsuccessful assault.

In the moments of being with one’s body, being in one’s body, being one’s body, maybe the most difficult assault is that cascading proximity — becoming closer to what one already is. Realizing the power and feeling the pain of being in your own body.

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