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Khlyst - Chaos is My Name

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Artist: Khlyst

Album: Chaos is My Name

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: Oct. 19, 2006

In the wake of Khanate’s untimely demise comes Khlyst, a challenging and potent duo comprised of ex-Khanate bassist and sound organizer James Plotkin and ex-Thorr’s Hammer vocalist Runhild Gammelsæter. The two have chosen a moniker that accurately and acutely reflects their combined power as well as the overall aesthetic sense of their first full-length, Chaos is My Name. Khlyst is Russian for whip, a noun appropriated by subterranean Christian orthodoxy in the late 17th century. Practicing fervent asceticism, Khlysts offset bodily denial and bouts of searing flagellation with ritualistic orgies, as the sect’s ideology orbited the notion of divine grace as attained through the commission of fleshly sin.

Plotkin and Gammelsæter spend 35 minutes delineating this ideology, oscillating from instances of unspeakable violence to emotive and blurrily meditative passages. Gammelsæter’s vocals are extraordinary, animalistic and vengeful, heaving, shrieking and spitting. She condemns and hexes in her native tongue, her words wailed as embodiments of emotional states, bereft of syntax and intelligibility. Guitar, percussion – and sampled and electronically altered versions of guitar and percussion – act as companion piece, simultaneously invasive and complimentary. When the witch’s wrath is wrested from her voice, the sound softens. Cymbals are bowed, scraped, clicked with sticks. A gong bongs. Gammelsæter responds with moans and groans and hisses, sounding like a core of bodies confused in obscene tangles, steadily working towards one heaving, sticky release. An electronic figure flutters in and out of the mix, acting as peculiar leitmotif, inquisitive tones lending a welcome naiveté to music fattened on experience.

Plotkin shapes this record, using technique and exquisite ear to great effect; he knows when to pull triggers and he’s patient enough to know when to recline and just let the music develop in and of itself. Cut-ups, knob-twiddling earth moving and percussive romps that recall some of Cage’s rhythmic and arrhythmic infatuations with instruments as “speaking” artifacts are all taken up and worked out in seamless extremes. Gammelsæter provides the perfect and equal partner; in the end one can only hope that this won’t be relegated to “project” status, but rather worked out and mined over several more recordings.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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