Prolific artists can present a problem for reviewers. As soon as you focus on a particular release, in preparation for churning out several hundred words of deathless prose, another CD-r, tape or download pops up on your timeline, rendering all your efforts to somehow seem up-to-date completely irrelevant. What can you do? Carry on, I guess.
Thus we come to ‘The Universe Unmasked, a collection of doomy, abstract madrigals from Claus Poulsen and Stuart Chalmers. A cursory peak at their respective websites/ Bandcamps reveals that this isn’t the latest release from either of them, despite coming out just a few short weeks ago. But it is well worth your time.
The pair collaborated over the internet, beaming stuff to each other and fiddling with it until, as Chalmers states rather gnomically, ‘we were happy’. They’ve got good ears, this duo, and so ‘The Universe Unmasked’ hits a groovily haunted, synergistic zone, with all the long-distance editing and layering creating a set that’s more than the sum of its parts without ever seeming over-worked. Here, rust-laden creaks scrape across ominous tinfoil shimmers. Soft-edged electronics groan wearily in dripping landscapes.
Given that Poulsen and Chalmers can both skew towards the maximalist, the amount of space in these cuts is surprising. Even when things get busy, as on the brittle zither scuttles of ‘Landscape Of the Sleeper’, where freezing drones wrap themselves around everything like sub-zero mist, there’s a disembodied calmness to proceedings. Poulsen, more restrained than usual, shapes his usual frantic noise collages (as seen in releases such as his recent split with BBBlood on Sound Holes) into something much more spooky and hypnotic.
Chalmers, meanwhile, seems to be revisiting the ritual ethnographic forgeries of his Imaginary Musicks series, this time around using his experience to replace kooky pastiche with ominous, gestural shapes and strategies. The combination hits hard on ‘The Invisible World’, which sees the pair conjuring a gnawing sense of distress from looping chimes and echoing moans. And in ‘Doppleganger’, see-sawing whines, distant horn blasts and occult mutters signal the approach of what can only be a mind-destroying horror from the bottom of the universe. Can you see what it is yet? MY EYES! MY EYES!