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Mordant Music - Carrion Squared / The Tower, Parts VIII - XVIII

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Artist: Mordant Music

Album: Carrion Squared / The Tower, Parts VIII - XVIII

Label: Mordant Music

Review date: Aug. 9, 2007

The lads behind the curtain of “Mordant Music” (a moniker that tags both a label and the recorded works of Baron Mordant and Admiral Greyscale, or Ian Hicks and Gary Mills respectively) refer to their dark matter not as sound or commerce, per se, but rather as spores, strains of germs left to feed and grow unchecked. Unsettling, for sure, but still strangely appropriate. These two break bread constantly over the haunted sounds of England’s cultural past, feasting upon hour after hour of woozily remembered television show themes and adolescent film strip interstitials, gorging on dusty vinyl that emerged before punk came and reset the clock to sounds that ignored the role that, for example, the BBC Radiophonic workshop played in soundtracking Britain’s snotty youth.

In many respects, these guys are musical chameleons in the purest sense of the term – shape-shifting, sampling wildly to create occasionally beat heavy alien broadcasts like Dead Air, or uncorking upper deck blasts in response to today’s drone massive (and inspired partially by a ghastly, rook-like construction somewhere in the countryside) on The Tower. A new year now, and thus, a new meal; so it goes that the Mordant boys are back once again with a pair of discs that continue the growth of their seed in directions that further muddy the line between memory and modernity, riding a crest known apropos in a few circles as hauntology, memoradelia subverting the tangibility of the present in favor of the suggestion of the past. Or something like that.

Commissioned by publishers Boosey & Hawkes as a film and television industry-only slab of soundtrack music, Mordant set out in 2006 to create The Drone Contiuum. The run-off from that project now emerges as the 40 tracks of the (fittingly named) Carrion Squared. But these slight, synth-heavy instrumentals (the longest of which is a lean 2 minutes and 32 seconds) aren’t necessarily just scraps from the carcass. Taken either as one continuous onslaught, or selectively programmed vignettes, these bits intuit their own logic and narrative grace.

Played front to back, Carrion throbs like the incidental cues to some great, lost thriller, the bleats and dips of “Analog Daniels” or the rhythmic whirl of “Crack of Krakow” setting up whole character arcs and shot sequences that are pristinely clear yet altogether non-existent. The same goes double for the incessant pound of “Keep Whacking Me” and monochrome burst of “New Leonard,” each a marvel of economic deployment that conjures a site specific mood in a minute twenty-six, tops. Considering how much of an influence library LPs and the visuals they score have obviously played in the creation of Mordant’s entire aesthetic (which is as much a visual thing as it is a sonic one), the duo’s distinct artistic realization as such a piece of wax makes perfect sense.

Switch gears, then, to the The Tower, Parts VIII – XVIII, and some heads will undoubtedly need a vigorous scratching. Those same synth baubles still lurk around every single corner; now, however, they’re deployed in the pursuit of lengthier themes, a dark ambient crush that brings to mind Eno’s Another Green World or Before and After Science rubbed clean of the pop bits. England’s Hidden Reverse also rears its misshapen head, and though wrought with far less gristle than those proponents, there are still generous levels of malice throughout.

Here, errant static transmissions in search of long lost receivers punctuate the lengthy drones and analog menace of tracks like “Warning Maps.” Elsewhere, “On Cracked Hooves” spits drum machine repetition against tidal swells and insistent guitars, while “Nocturnal Bias” plays space aged black metal treble. “Black Advance,” meanwhile, desiccates a fairly straightforward bass line with distorted grime, as synthesizer racks give in to their ultimate demise.

Careful listeners will surely recognize that Mordant Music’s reference points have come out before, be it from the likes of Broadcast’s aching, jagged pop, Boards of Canada’s gauzy beat trips, or the whole of Trunk Records’ carefully considered reissue program. But these are all variants on the sounds of, mostly, the long-forgotten and distantly remembered. Never conjured the same way twice, and played back through different hands with equal uniqueness, these two releases highlight another bewitching permutation of Mordant Music’s constantly evolving sound and steadily refined approach. May their particular virus prove to be hearty and resistant for many a future day.

By Michael Crumsho

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