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CD Feature/ Fear Falls Burning & Birchville Cat Motel: "s/t"

img  Tobias

It is certainly most remarkable that what started out explicitely as a solo project reached its preliminary pinacle with a release full of collaborations. On “Once we all walk through solid objects”, Fear Falls Burning did away with the notion of the one-man project and invited a host of personal and musical friends for a stimulating exchange of ideas, philosophies and, last but not least, sounds. It turned out to be a sweeping blow, which brought out the intersections and points of contact between various adjacent genres and apparently forged alliances beyond the scope of that majestic box set:

One of the most natural contributions was Dirk Serries’ handshake with Campbell Kneale of Birchville Cat Motel. A composition which not only represented an immediately memorable highlight but also felt right from the very start, it almost demanded for a continuation in one way or the other. “Fear Falls Burning & Birchville Cat Motel” is not just a fall-out from the aforementioned sessions. Rather, it is an album following in the aftermath of its predecessor, when the work had been done and the realisation started to sink in that this duo had a lot more to tell the word than could be contained in a single, solitary track.

Let’s go back to 2006 and to the music written for “Once we all walk through solid objects” for a second. Pieced together in Kneale’s Celebrate Psi Phenomenon studios, this was a haunting, dark and sensous piece of music which combined the best from the worlds of both artists. Carefully, layers of drones are stacked upon each other, like Hitchcock-strings playing in vibrato, turning increasingly metallic and expanding their frequential potential. From the depths of its core rises a choral chord progression, a descending motive of ghoulish intangibility, which pushes the track forward like the breath of the wind inflating the sails of a ghost ship. A hypno-erotic exercise in minimalism, it felt as though it had always been there and could go on forever. On “Fear Falls Burning & Birchville Cat Motel”, it almost does.

Again, drones are at the heart of the music, but this time in a very different context. In fact, the album sounds so utterly different from what one might have expected based on their previous encounter, that it’s hard to believe the same line-up was responsible for its creation. Part of that may well be explained by the instrumental extension. While Serries once again provided the source drones by playing his guitar into effect processors, Campbell in turn proceeded to colorize these textures with the help of yet more guitars, drums and even field recordings. The broadening of the palette has resulted in a more ebullient and aggressive sound with less chinks. As an addition, the use of percussive elements, as sparse and concentrated as they may be, suddenly creates an entirely different feeling, one of a bizarre band context and of associations with noise rock and metal – both friendly genres for Dirk Serries, who fosters an open love for the tribal madness of Killing Joke and Campbell Kneale, who has doted on the inspirational qualities of Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, alike.

This may also explain why their collaboration has such an oppressive and overwhelming touch to it. Even after having listened to this single, fifty-minute long track again and again, I am still not quite sure what exactly it is these two sound wizzards are doing for most of the time. The opening movement is easy to decipher: A swelling guitar theme, most likely constructed from several lines and layers running at various speeds, meanders through a spontaneously proliferating garden of sharp, piercing tones, deep and distant convulsions as well as scintillating harmonics. The end, too, appears obvious: Traces of the ouverture return under the guise of an icey amplifier hum, sounding out the piece in a sedated slumber.

In between these two points, however, the music is pressed to a rustling cloud of unknowing, its intestines twitching and its heart pumping its body liquids nervously through chakral channels. In the process, all structure is obliterated and one can merely try to feel what is happening, as the intellect surrenders.

What can be said, though, is that there are always several themes running simultaneously, that the sweet tinklings of the beginning are smeared out to spaceous, rhythmical and metallic churnings, that the duo has an astounding ability of turning the howling of a distortion pedal into a melody and that there is no fixed center of attention anymore. And despite all this, the music doesn’t just float peacefully like an Ambient track, but rather as forcefully as a wild torrent.

It is certainly most remarkable that Fear Falls Burning and Birchville Cat Motel have managed to keep a composed air, while turning their insides out. This could just be a smudgy stream of noise, but instead, it sounds like concentrated psychedelic chamber drones. Maybe here can one find the continuity of the Fear Falls Burning concept: This concentration, focus, density and logical progression almost make it seem like there still only one person playing.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Fear Falls Burning
Homepage: Birchville Cat Motel
Homepage: Conspiracy Records

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