Thirty or so minutes of gloriously austere hi-fidelity noise from Gary Myles, Kieron Piercy and Johnny Scarr, who together form the mighty Spoils and Relics. Its rugged, sour textures have been chafing my frontal lobes ever since it dropped through my letterbox, the geological density of its textures resisting any early attempts to get my head round it until now.
The scrapes, clangs and white noise avoid the familiar gestures of what we might understand as ‘noise’, so there’s none of the plasticity or submission of yer HNW, nor is there the almost goth melodrama of the Wolf Eyes inspired crew. This is far more sullen, introverted, a charred crater, a glimpse into the abyss.
The scrapheap sonics and determined structureless found herein seem to resonate with a deep sense of feeling, not necessarily in a good way, more like a sense of some deep-seated cultural malaise that’s teetering on the edge of misanthropy.
Yet it is the relentless physicality of this recording that is so compelling. While the exact sources of the trio’s sonic rubble are never exactly clear, the overall impact is, at times, apocalyptic. This wreckage and detritus, this is us, they seem to be saying. Ozymandias in the Apple Store. Look on my works, ye Mighty, and chuck ‘em in the bin. The naked lunch, but not at the end of your fork. Imagine prising off the facia of your new iPhone 6 to reveal Guiyu, China’s so-called ‘electronic waste village’ right there in front of you.
That’s not to say listening to Embed and then forget is a depressing experience. While it’s not exactly fun, it is compelling and the sound design is exceptional. Occasionally, its subsonic rumbles are like mic’d up tectonic plates, shifting and grinding against one another. Other sections resemble shortwave transmissions from a long abandoned planet. Early on, what sounds like the guts of a piano echo and twang. Later, a steam whistle is extended into an impassive drone, before cutting out abruptly.
The work is structurally opaque. Noise is interspersed with silence, gaps of uneven length that resemble voids, or blackouts. The playback is crystal clear, even when the sounds themselves are grainy and distorted. Sometimes it sounds improvised and intuitive. Other times it is sounds highly organised, almost Feldman-esque in its use of variation and repetition.
With Embed and then forget, Myles, Piercy and Scar have crafted something as impassive and unforgiving as it is subtle and rich. It is awesome and impressive stuff.
Check https://spoilsandrelics.bandcamp.com/ for more of the trio’s dark matter.