Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Bismuth/ Undersmile split review - Tartarus Records
Tartarus is a small, Dutch cassette label that I've had my eye on for some time. Recent offerings from the likes of Toner Low, Slomatics and Primitive Man caught my attention, and with the resurgence of the cassette format I thought it was high time to check them out.
I had not heard of Bismuth or Undersmile, so I was down for a listen to the new split the bands paired up to release and give it the @oldfatbroke scrutiny. Frankly, I was more interested in delving in and finding out what Tartarus was all about, rather than finding new music. Queue up side one, and let's just see where it goes type of thing.
About 30 seconds into the Bismuth track I realized I was in deep. I had not expected such heavy, monolithic doom and sanitariumesque noise. Before I knew it, I was being drug down into the black depths of a calm sea in a webbing I just couldn't shake. The shrieking vocals gave me reason to believe that somewhere above me, a banshee urged my despair along and reveled in my abyssal ride.
The track is entitled Collapse, and it exceeds seventeen minutes in length. Being totally immersed, it felt more like ten and I was sad to see it go. It's a song that I will visit again if only to experience my sorrowful, soothing journey to the bottom once again.
Titanaboa is the Undersmile track and I really wasn't expecting much from it. I was still a bit off center from the emotion of the Bismuth experience and that was enough for me. I shook it off eventually though and got the twenty three minute side two underway.
Titanboa begins with a hypnotic droning of both music and vocals that evoke a sense of structured ritualism. It's a calming dance and done well enough that as the song develops, you are a bit late in understanding that something is very much wrong here. As the noise and tones evolve, you get the distinct impression that you are probably laying on a bed in a seedy, out of the way hotel somewhere and the ritual is centered on you. You are most certainly a victim of something very occult and very dark. Only you don't despair. You welcome it in.
All together Tartarus brought together two gems here that are incredibly atmospheric, emotional and sweetly disturbing. Rarely do songs portray this level of passionate disturbia and I left the scene a bit taken a back. This was amazing music. I felt like had Edgar Allen Poe had this split, he might have tried to roll it up and smoke it.
I was very excited to see this was also available on vinyl and I can't wait for a copy to arrive. A mail order only red and black version of 100 is sold out and currently a black version of 200 showed only 3 copies remaining. Tartarus is known for it's deluxe cassette offerings, so you can also purchase this in a beautifully done gold package limited to only 100.
In the end I was simply blown away by this release. The quality of the recording itself is extremely high on both tracks and the music itself is a wonderful journey through one's darker side. A journey we often like to take.