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Nymphomatriarch - Nymphomatriarch

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Artist: Nymphomatriarch

Album: Nymphomatriarch

Label: Hymen

Review date: Nov. 30, 2003

The creative process that resulted in Nymphomatriarch is unavoidably eye-catching – Venetian Snares and Hecate had sex, recorded it, and made an album. It’s easy to be skeptical about the artistic necessity of projects like this, at least in terms of their presentation on a public scale. However, the premise in this case is far too juicy to be written off without being given a chance. As jaded as our popular culture has made us, Nymphomatriarch leaves Reign In Blood-era Slayer sounding tame and innocent, and that alone merits at least one listen.

Hecate is Rachael Kozak, who first began composing dark electronic music in the mid-’90s and has adhered to a die-hard DIY attitude ever since. She has released music on Zod, Praxis, and primarily her own Zhark Records, which she founded in 1996. Last year saw the release of Hecate’s first full-length, The Magick of Female Ejaculation which displayed her penchant for creepy atmospherics and pounding, heavily distorted breaks. The obscenely prolific Venetian Snares, a.k.a. Aaron Funk, has put forth far too many releases at far too alarming a rate for any but the truly obsessed to keep track of, on labels such as Planet-Mu, Hymen and Isolate. In the last year or two he has grown into an international superstar on the post-jungle/breakcore scene (not exactly selling out arenas yet, but give him time). His superhuman release schedule has drawn him a good deal of attention, but his reputation owes most of its weight to his creative touch with faster-than-jungle jungle breaks, as well as his obsessively detailed and exceptionally dynamic compositional style.

The premise of Nymphomatriarch is hard to ignore. The question is whether or not it can hold up beyond mere voyeuristic novelty, and intellectually speaking there is definitely some interesting material lurking beneath the Triple-X camp exterior. Unlike pornography, which objectifies people (read: women) and dulls the sexual imagination, the music on Nymphomatriarch does just the opposite. Sex is transformed and glorified through the imagination (that this is a collaborative effort is especially important to this point), and the end result is a sound world that stands on its own and yet is not alienated from its source. There are no images, thus no bodies to objectify. The track title “Amaurophelia” seems to play on this – the word can’t be found in Webster’s, but it probably refers to blindness as a mode of erotic fantasy. Perhaps it is a bit of inside information regarding one of the music’s creators, but the word applies at least as much to the listener.

Musically, Nymphomatriarch is six tracks and a delightful 35 minutes. Though not much attention seems to have been paid to song structure, most of the music on Nymphomatriarch points towards a very clear sense of purpose. All the sounds are crafted to fall within a well-articulated and coherent sonic vision, and the sheer number of different sounds used is impressive to say the least. The album opens with the short, ambient “Input”, wittily associating hardware cable connections and sexual penetration: it is a new-age synth tone with a slimy underbelly, chasing its tail around delay effects through empty space. The sense of unnerving isolation on “Input” establishes a relentless eeriness that underpins the entire album.

The percussive possibilities of sex are surprisingly vast. “Blood on the Rope” bristles with trademark Venetian Snares beats – awesomely fast, delightfully syncopated, hard, crisp, and programmed in 10/8 time. Only in this case the hits sound less like Amen snares than bare skin smacking against skin. Providing sonic (and erotic) juxtaposition to the staccato percussion assault, breathy vocalizations dart out of the empty spaces, their tonal characteristics heavily emphasized, while a dirty bass tone oozes slowly along the bottom following no fixed pattern. The production is quite subtle in many cases, creating a surrealist dream world that is drastically alien, yet never totally unrecognizable.

Like “Blood on the Rope”, “Amaurophelia” and “Pervs” reflect Venetian Snares’ compulsive efforts to work outside of 4/4 time. “Amaurophelia” resonates with the sound of bodily fluids, sticky flesh and natural lubrication, a dubby bassline and a beat that sounds like Top 40 R&B in 14/8. All the beats ring of violence, but “Pervs” is especially sadistic. A brief early pause in the rhythmic onslaught is punctuated by a mumbling male voice asking, “Am I torturing you?” The question gets no answer before the pummeling beat breaks loose again, interspersed this time not with breathy ‘Oh’s’ but startled grunts and groans that walk a line between pleasure and pain. The beat drops out for some time and the album’s only real dialogue appears in the mix. The male voice returns, asking, “Does that hurt?” This time a female voice replies, “Yes.” The fine line is very apparent, taboo is ruthlessly taunted – the male voice asks, “Are you having a hard time with that?” to which the female voice answers with a “No” that devolves into thick laughter before the final, most hair-raisingly brutal percussion assault elicits cries of truly alarming pain.

A sense of retaliatory cultural violence is essential to the breakcore scene, but the violence present on Nymphomatriarch is of a far more personal sort, the vulnerable humanity of its object amplified by the unshakable control and mechanical precision of the syncopated beats and sub-bass resonances. This is no conceptual violence – whereas much breakcore applies distortion to the drums (and everything else for that matter) to convey its sense of hostile abandon, it is vastly more unnerving to know that the beats rattling your speakers this time around are made from actual recorded collisions of flesh.

“Hymen Tramp Choir,” stretching out at the heart of the album, is 14 minutes of haunting beatless ambience. It is certainly a surprising inclusion, in that it comprises nearly half the music on Nymphomatriarch, and if you are the sort of listener who wants the product to be focused, honed, and refined, with all unnecessary baggage left on the hard drive, you’ll probably find this particular selection a little off-putting. However, it would be my guess that no one who knowingly purchases this album is easily put off by anything. In exchange for a bit of patience, “Hymen Tramp Choir” vividly conjures a shadowy demon’s lair filled with unearthly gurgles and a mournful distant cry that may be a victim or may be the beast itself. Unfortunately, patience wears thin on repeated listening – my strongest criticism is that the album would feel less like a document, albeit a highly involved one, and more like a fully realized work of art if this sort of extended, absorbing ambience had been woven into the beat-driven tracks rather than left as one huge slab lying in their midst.

For fans of Hecate or Venetian Snares, Nymphomatriarch is not to be missed. The first few listens are guaranteed to enthrall, especially for those who are beginning to want a change of pace from distortion, distortion, and more distortion. Beyond the shock value of those first few listens, there are indeed more rewards to be had here – though the compositional structures themselves seem to have gotten short shrift, the source material makes for some of the most surreal listening of recent memory on a purely sonic level, and the beats are hot enough to stop you in your tracks the moment they kick in. If, on the other hand, you are entirely new to the world of post-jungle speed breaks and are unfamiliar with both Hecate and Venetian Snares, Nymphomatriarch would make for the most bizarre introduction imaginable to the world of two already bizarre musicians. But who knows, that might be fun too.

By Jesse Serrins

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