I think I’ve had enough of pianos.
They’re everywhere at the moment and, damn it, yes! I’ve officially had enough.
For the last couple of years, the tasteful piano album, with or without tasteful soundscape, has been relentlessly on the rise but I think I’ve listened to enough now, thank you very much. They have come to sound mannered, too, er, tasteful. Now I need something that leaves a nastier taste; bitter black coffee, old French cigarettes, Marmite – bring it on.
Last year, one of the piano-free beauties that droned loud and proud and sounded, well, flippin’ awesome was ‘Subsiding’ by Siavash Amini on the excellent Futuresequence label. No danger of bland-out here. Instead a monumental work of power and depth that just got better and better with repeated listening.
And now he’s back, and this time he’s brought his chum, neo-noir word-smith, Matt Finney. His latest release, ‘Familial Rot’ on tape label extraordinaire Umor Rex, is as monumental as any of Siavash’s previous works and carries his distinctive voice for sure. But this time, over four tracks and forty minutes, he takes his now signature sound somewhere new, somewhere more haunted, much bleaker and, frankly, more relentlessly disturbing, than before. ‘Subsiding’ sounds like it was recorded in a glorious, if slightly ruined, cathedral with stained glass windows from which coloured beams of light pierce the deepest shadows. Maybe flocks of small birds were circling high in the vaulted roof spaces. ‘Familial Rot’, on the other hand, sounds like it was recorded in the dust filled and shadowed gloom of a cavernous and long abandoned turbine hall with only the rats and stray dogs for company. But setting it all off and making things far worse are Matt Finney’s brief snatches of spoken word, bursting through as they do, to spread some sickly, flickering orange light at inopportune moments. I don’t want to spoil the story they tell but let’s just say the narrator is not having a very good day. No, not at all. The very sound of the music surrounding the spoken words seems to be infected by the power of the prose, corrupted and dragged, half in and half out, into Finney’s narrator’s terrifying world of familial rot.
Something about it all reminds me of the stories of Thomas Ligotti. Often labelled the golden boy of modern Weird Fiction, Ligotti has a power beyond that. Yes, he can be read as superior, Lovecrafty, Weird Fiction but his work bears closer examination and is all the more unsettling for it. He superficially uses the tropes of his pigeon-holing to draw the reader in before subverting the genre’s traditional emphasis on the weird or supernatural, unnerving and forever affecting in his reader an existential dread with his portrayal of the occluded truths of the modern world.
And so it is with ‘Familial Rot’; it feels very Siavash Amini, very still and melancholic and monumental. I think the best description of ‘Subsiding’ I read was that it was both funereal and uplifting at the same time (and I wish I could remember where I read it….) and on first listening you could, despite the grimier sound, the more abundant static and noise, say the same of ‘Familial Rot’ too. But….but….. those lyrics, the faint and distorted sounds of what could be either children at play or just could be something far more sinister, the constant barking of dogs clearly aware and alert to the presence of evil lurking, the noises below the drones, the sounds of something trying to get through. These things tell all but the most casual of listeners that something truly dark is at work here.
Sure there are moments of light, of relief, of even a cathartic release. But don’t be fooled. Just as in the stories of Ligotti where the mind-crushing truth of the madness of the world lurks, jumbled and visible only out of the corner of your eye, so too have Amini & Finney captured the terror and horror of all existence. All you just have to listen.
Gosh. I need a break. I need something to calm me down after the intensity of ‘Familial Rot’. So, where have all those piano albums gone?
The CD version of ‘Subsiding’ by Siavash Amini has long sold out but it is available to download at Futuresequence’s bandcamp here:
‘Familial Rot’ was available on tape from Umo Rex but has sold out at source. However, at the time of writing, if you have a hunt about you can find it elsewhere on-line. If you do, get it. It is a thing of beauty. Otherwise, download at their bandcamp site here:
This morning I enjoyed ‘Familial Rot’ with a cup of Sumatra Mandheling coffee and some Pane Carasatu from Italy, or Sardinia to be precise. Tasty.