If you've been keeping up with this blog at all you know that Bower's work is held in extremely high reverence here and this latest offering from the Voltigeurs side of things is pretty much essential if you're into the whole "sound of the void" sort of soundscaping that Bower is so fucking good at. Right away you're dropped into the midst of sonic hailstorm, a relentless screaming blast of freezing, scalding winds and scraped out dying melodies, a fucked up torrent of cloudy vestige hoofing its way toward the end and catching everything in its path up in itself. Obviously this track (and Voltigeurs in general) bears a lot in common with the new Skullflower approach but the emphasis here, however vague, is on melody, or the wisp of melody. An idea gets planted into your head as you're surrounded by all the blasting frigid furnace horror, a fake memory placed there to encourage a nostalgiah that may or may not be true. Either way Bower and collaborator Samantha Davies impart a wailing sort of sadness to this composition that is as far distanced from the emotional hollowness of Skullflower as can be, making Voltigeurs a project with a much more expansive palette to draw from. Emotion means connection, and it's interesting to see Bower adding this element of near-warmth to his raging storms of frustration and disgust.
Horseback contributes two tracks on the flip and i'm pretty blown away by how good they are, easily holding their own against the strong demonstration of force that Voltigeurs lays down previous. I found Horseback's debut, "The Invisible Mountain," to be a vastly overvalued piece of "Hex"-era Earth aping shit, a plodding mess of post-western jangle and rumble that came off more comical than musical. I know a lot of people thought that release was pioneering in some way or another (and i'd love to have someone actually tell my why) but to me it was just another overhyped record thrown in the wake of Isis's breakup, an attempt at genre mashing that created little we haven't heard before and better. I love "Dead Man", truly, but the only person that needs to work off those motifs is Neil Young.
So imagine my surprise when the two tracks here are actually really fucking good. Trading in the organ-warbling western nonsense for some blasting black metal suits Horseback extremely well and they manage to meld their desert drenched emptiness with BM's cold textures in an immensely focused way, yielding a sort of psychedelicized blackness that builds up a towering wall of unapproachability. In ten minutes Horseback serve up enough atmosphere to make "The Invisible Mountain" into a meaningless prelude, an stumbling block on the way to a grander vision. If they continue working in this harsher, more metal-inspired manner i could see a place for them in the black metal macrocosm. My biggest complaint with the debut was the uselessness of the vocals, a droll near-spoken presence that only undermined the music's impact; here those vocals are completely warped, transformed into BM bile-rasps of the highest order and subsequently becoming the vessel that allows these songs to morph into their new guise. This is the direction this band needs to pursue, and the only way i can see myself taking them seriously in the future.
Turgid Animal should be commended for putting out another way cool split. This is well worth the effort involved in tracking it down. I knew the Voltigeurs side would be awesome but the strength of Horseback's contribution elevates this to a higher recommendation. Great stuff.