Thursday, March 4, 2010

VELVET CACOON "ATROPINE" (Full Moon Productions)

Quietly released last year to little acclaim and disappearing just as quickly, "Atropine" easily stands as Velvet Cacoon's most decadent illustration of their complete musical goal and aesthetic. This is a beautiful, beautiful album, imbued with an epoch, all-encompassing majesty that drapes everything near it in lavish late autumnal decasia. Velvet Cacoon have always embraced black metal's sense of isolationist mystery, mythologizing themselves early on and inviting controversy by terming their brand of hypnogogia "eco-fascist black metal"; what that moniker actually meant was something left entirely to the imaginations of the listeners, although even from the beginning a sort of affinity for and affiliation with water was hinted at. As the band's profile grew and more information began to surface it was revealed that VC was a very clever "joke"-not artistically, but rather in the fact that they took a conventional musical form and brought back all the initial feelings of outrage and misunderstanding that accompanied it. It was as "true" and "kult" as black metal could get. In time it came to light that much of the actual inspiration for the records was copious drug consumption and a fervent belief that through the application of chemicals and hallucinogenics, altered states of consciousness and dimensional projection could be achieved and some sort of transcendence attained. VC became nothing less than a hymn to the cosmos, a ritual and rite bound as one, the key and the door. Black metal was the vehicle but to fully appreciate the band's work and the meaning you had to totally immerse yourself in the recordings-this was (and still is) music to wash over you, to cloud the mind and open the (third) eye. Small wonder then that by the end of their run their swansong was this massive two disc set of flooring, obliterating drone.
Like a deep tissue massage for the brain, "Atropine" oozes out of the speakers and fills up the room, saturating everything with its inky black warmth. The best approximation of the sound would be an amalgamation of Lull, Troum and Angelo Badalamenti (and if any of those names mean anything to you, then i would urge you to buy this album right now) minus all the chilled, distanced coldness. "Atropine" eschews the usual black metal focus on alienation and instead goes for the embrace-these sounds are like a comforting, heavy dream, deep sleep rendered into physical being to lay next you and caress you until you fall under in a sweet, mesmerizing narcolepsy.
As they progressed Velvet Cacoon professed an intense interest in the ocean and all sorts of sea lore. VC mainstay Josh (no last name given) began stating in interviews that he wanted to use VC to convey the sounds and feel of the ocean, to make something vast and murky and near infinite, to make time disappear and to build a dwarfing force through music that would humble even the most jaded listeners. The black metal was always woozy and dreamy and drenched in thick, choking smoky echoes but the drones became more and more prominent, growing ever deeper with each release. It became less about opiates and valium and more about a real congruence with natural forces at work, a sort of auditory paganism that began to hold the ocean in ever-higher esteem. Where "Atropine" most succeeds is in the realization of that esteem, the carving of a deep mind basin where that vastness is made so wonderfully real. You feel like you're sinking ever deeper, being pulled under and completely filled with water, the murk and the darkness becoming more and more present. And it's so comforting, and inviting; it all just keeps sweeping over you, heavier and heavier, unending, pushing you further and further, beckoning you to keep going, keep going, keep going-there's so much more here, so much you don't know, so much you don't see, so much that you ignore. Oceanic indeed.
Velvet Cacoon disbanded after this album because Josh felt that he had realized the full potential of the project, that the apex had been reached on "Atropine." The offering had been made. He did the right thing, as i can't see any way that VC could top this-i love their black metal albums, and certainly "Genevieve" is a modern masterpiece-this is the defining moment. Dive in.

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