Thursday, 4 February 2016

Unsettling Disembodied Ambiance: Spektr - The Art To Disappear (2016)

Spektr - The Art to Disappear

It's fitting that France - the symbolic centre of western free-thinking and experimentation - keeps churning out some of the most unconventional and exciting extreme metal. Spektr are one such band with their use  of unsettling industrial ambiance that echoes against walls dripping with sharp and detailed black-metal aggression and atmosphere. The strength of The Art To Disappear comes from its ability to merge the sparse and cloying unnatural qualities with a forthright black-metal fury. To quote from their Bandcamp page:
 'SPEKTR is a myserious French Black Metal duo, known for their experimental and mind-altering approach to extreme music.
The band takes delight in delivering an infinitely dark, at times psychotic aura, and transmuting the Black Metal reins into a loose form. Shrouded in a veil of vocalless, industrial and ambient-infected secrecy, the duo's music stands as a metaphore for a trip into the unconfortable uknown.'

The Art to Disappear is entirely instrumental with the odd spoken-word sample drifting in from the dark. On the whole the album relies on a rich array of unconventional sounds and musical progressions. It's an album that demands complete attention otherwise it will wash away in to the background; in my opinion this is not a weakness, it has lots of subtleties that slither with a quiet assurance, subtleties that collide with spurts of furious black-metal noise. 

The ambient sections are regular and haunting; disembodied spoken word sections crawl from churning industrial noises. 'Kill Again', for example, is a nightmarish interlude made up of sharp synthetic noises and glitching pockets of vocals that repeat and throb. The ambient passages really do create a sense of unease. 'The Day Will Definitely Come' begins with a hollow distant sound before a robotic grating scrapes through; at 2.24 it stops, drowned by a low two-tone buzzing sound which is soon drowned by piston-fast double-bass drumming. There is a lot going on, a lot of stopping-and-starting, frequent changes in sound and speed; it does work to create an unsettling and unstable environment, and although it may annoy some, I think its fragmented quality is an interesting and powerful tool. There is a fine line between complete disconnection between sections, but The Art To Disappear manages to maintain a thin sense of fluidity that spawns from the repetition of particular sounds, tropes and riffs - brief some may be - that reoccur throughout.

Spektr - Photo

Riff-wise the album is very interesting. Dissonant, almost toneless, feedback and echoing makes way for semi-conventional riffing. The guitars in 'Through the Darkness of Future Past', similar to recent Inquisition, have a wavering vibrato; 'From the Terrifying to the Fascinating' has a Deathspell Omega feel riff-wise - atonal, occasionally spastic - before completely transcending the realms of extreme-metal. The song morphs in to down-tempo electronic section reminiscent of  Massive Attack's hypnotic trip-hopAngular riffs storm in again, merged with what sounds like giant industrial bellows expelling air. 

The ten-minute closing track, 'The Art to Disappear', is what it all seems to have built up to. It begins with flowing jazz-like solo drumming and psychedelic reverberations much like the dark tones of The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Enzemble. The guitars and bass come in at 1.25 as cymbals crash in a mid-paced groove and as the bass throbs. The drumming grows more frenetic as the song enters its black-thrash phase, they have a synthetic industrial quality and like a frantic press they pummel holes through the intense spurts of the album. The riffs remind me a lot of Blut Aus Nord's sound on Memoira Vetusta, in that it has a similar melodic diversity and atmospheric scope. At 4.30 the song goes silent as a voice crackles above a drum groove, saying: 'we have seen illusion and reality begin to overlap and fuse. The line between them begins to disappear'.

The whole thing is a surreal trip, a dreamlike out-of-body experience where nothing seems natural or real, where nothing is solid and definite; it's a diverse and richly textured sci-fi horror world where consciousness seems to have detached from the body. The album fades out to nothing as the voice continues to glitch and fragment and the drums stutter, it all seems a culmination to the process of disappearing. The Art To Disappear is an ambitious album that has been meticulously arranged and executed.


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