Music Reviews


Futurists Against The Ocean

Mimicry Records

Though founder G. Stuart Dahlquist was briefly a member of Sunn0)))’s dark coven, and the enigmatic B.R.A.D. did time in Burning Witch, ASVA do not dwell in those same blackened recesses of subconscious horror. Their music speaks, instead, of wide-open spaces, vistas untouched by a human hand; a grey, overcast and chill wind settling over the land. Futurists Against the Ocean is music that I will forever associate with the winter thunderstorm that I drove through when I first heard it. Their forebears and peers include the aforementioned Sunn0))), the force of nature that is Earth (Dylan Carlson was once a member of this very project), Sonic Youth’s splintered guitars (if whomever turned out the lights forgot to cut the amps), Brian Eno’s discreet music and Boyd Rice’s last few NON records. A supergroup in all senses of the word, ASVA includes in its ranks Mr. Bungle’s Trey Spruance, Jessika Kenney (Black Horse), Troy Swanson and John Schuller (Master Musicians of Bukkake). ASVA, though they may title their album “Futurists Against The Ocean,” is primordial music, deeply instinctual and inexorable, it’s the stuff of plate tectonics, Eurasia and Pangea fragmenting, lava reshaping a mountain, coal becoming a diamond, a new ice age.

“Kill The Dog, Tie Them Up, Then Take The Money” is a glorious collage of crushing doom waves (propped up by droning organ crests, in total synch) summoning the endless expanses of western soundtrack music (Morricone). Crushing riffs, where each chord is left to ring and echo for infinity, punctuated by gongs and bells. The sound is huge, whole universes shaped in the blink of an eye. When the guitar decays gently into a ringing hum overlaid by one gorgeous organ chord, sinister whispers spill from every nook and cranny of the speaker channel.

“Zaum; Beyonsense” is birthed by the alien hums and harmonies of waiting amplifiers. In fact, much of the early track is built around the sounds of their vast sonic arsenal at rest, tones and vibrations interacting like forgotten ghosts in the machine. Manipulated and filtered guitar tones sound almost like the ripping of flesh, feedback crackles like a dying fire, slowly gaining in volume and ferocity (not in terms of riffery or confrontation but a devolution into dissonant cacophony). At the halfway point, a kick drum sounds a war cadence, heralding more violent and aggressive guitar abuse, like angry barbarian legions. In the end, all that is left is the crushing cadence of the bone drums, a demon forge, while the electronic tones and pulses have retreated to a far distant land.

The last crack of the drum gives way to the foreboding, opaque sound that is “Fortune.” It’s wave of quiet dread and melancholy from which a crawling organ note, twinning a snakelike wave of guitar feedback, begins to emerge like a building storm. This clears out into filmic, pastoral no-wave and then she comes in for the first time. Vocalist Jessika Kenney takes their sound to a new level with a lonely wail that comes off somewhere between opera and valkyrie; wordless, tense, somehow courtly harmonies. Everything is restrained to the point of blood running down your chin from the bitemarks on your lip. The very essence of the slow burn, fragile beauty and melancholy horror wrenched forth in equal, quiet doses.

And where all the sonic components of ASVA, over the course of , have been building and metamorphosizing, it all comes together with closer “By The Well Of Living and Seeing.” It’s godlike, a pure behemoth, stops me dead in my tracks every time. Listen, no hyperbole intended, but this song is like nothing I’ve ever heard before, ASVA are charting a fearless aesthetic that is more candlelit devotional music than doom. Precise, slowcore-metal played with a crawling precision and deliberation, joined by Kenney’s soaring vocals. The only thing even close to this is the latterday Swans’ self-immolation. But this, this, is so much more difficult to pin down. No void of despair, ASVA’s music is transcendent and new. Parched earth right before the clouds burst open, white light from the mouth of infinity. New vistas of lush sound. War metal for pacifists. “By The Well Of Living and Seeing” is amazing, and at the halfway point, when keying vocals and guitar tones suddenly shatter into a gorgon’s scream, the song shifts into eerie doom-saying and babble. The end is a final slash-and-burn over which Kinney leads a chorus in pagan hymns.

This will be the last thing you hear as you die.

Mimicry Records:

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