The harsh majesty of Margaret Chardiet’s debut will either leave you writhing in the agony of psychic defeat or prostrating yourself in ekstasis at her feet, says Daniel Jones.
In ancient Greece, a pharmakós was a ritual human sacrifice exiled or killed by a “healing sorcerer”, referred to as a pharmakon. This act was believed to lead to purification and social catharsis in times of local distress, famine, and plague. Had our modern Pharmakon, the alias of 22-year old Margaret Chardiet, existed at the time, catharsis would have certainly been less deadly… though considerably nosier and involving some fucked-up paradoxes I’d prefer not to contemplate.
People often make the mistake of assuming noise music is easy to make. Making noise is easy; you buy some effects pedals, grab a thing and hit it, or use it to hit other things. Maybe you scream a bunch or just go hog wild while wearing army boots because at that point people stop calling it an onstage temper-tantrum and start calling it power electronics. To turn all of this into music, however, takes not only talent but charisma as well—something Chardiet not only possesses, but which possesses you the second her voice hits your ears. Chardiet’s Sacred Bones debut Abandon wastes no time, with the shrieked opening of “Milkweed/It Hangs Heavy” shifting into a single shrill tone over which metallic percussion and diseased heartbeats are overlaid like shrouds of bondage: this is musical enslavement, antagonistic terror given aural form. What sets her apart from fellow death industrialists is the sense of severe philosophical stateliness she can impart into her throat-rending screams and instrumentals. Chardiet can make a well-timed silence more startling and frightening than any blast of harsh static, and that lends a level of intensity here that makes each track feel relentless.
In the puncturing beats of “Ache” and the crushing stomp of “Pitted”, we find the coldness of the mechanical, the fear-stink of lurching beast and the imperial nature of mankind, the combination of which inscribes a hypnotic and drilling testament into the very fabric of the soul. The latter finds Chardiet excising her vocal demons to heights of power that echo that of precursors such as Diamanda Galas and Jarboe, yet even in this grandeur there is something of the element of frustration as well, looped waves dissolving into the ether of healing loathing—physician, kill thyself. “Crawling On Bruised Knees” envelops you at the last, descending buzzsaw bass and visceral verbalizations. The pounding majesty of it all will either leave you writhing in the agony of psychic defeat or prostrating yourself in ekstasis at her feet.
Pharmakons no longer exist; they have been replaced by pharmacists, to whom we travel to to avoid death rather than accept it, who mask our ecstasy with artificial nullity. The medicines many of us take every day are our own illusions which we have forgotten are illusions. Abandon rejects the poisons of immortality, the deception of ego and its upper-tier trappings: the false light of religion. Yet it does so in a way that feels intelligent and (an odd word to ascribe to such a harsh record, I know) somehow subtle. It’s a sacrament that transcends holiness, a primer for self and post-self. Sacred Bones? After hearing this, they just might be.~
Abandon is out now via Sacred Bones.