Telekom Electronic Beats

Hierophantic Codas: Daniel Jones on Lustmord’s The Word As Power

The concepts of ‘holy’ and ‘sacred’ are not synonymous. Holiness is bound within parameters structured by a collaborative entity toward the reverence of concepts beyond Self. Whatever the individual chooses to receive from them, the concept itself is created with GodWill in mind, pre-thought and pre-plan for outside minds: this idea is inviolate, this idea is Whole. It is the Will of the individual themselves, however, which defines the sacred.

Brian Williams is often credited as the father of dark ambient, and rightly so. His work as Lustmord has continuously evolved in subtle but rich ways since the early ’80s. There’s a constant and creeping intensity in his compositions, the influences of which can be found in work as various as modern experimental legends like Lee Bartow of Navicon Torture Technologies/Theologian and Dominick Fernow to the paranoid soundtracks of David Lynch. His new album The Word Is Power is a skillfully-executed ritual of hierophantic codas exploring language spoken and written, the language that exists only within our own selves, and that which tries to reach beyond us—or to control us.

Structured around the voices of Aina Skinnes OlsenSoriahJarboe (Swans), and Maynard James Keenan (Tool/Puscifer) and wrapped in trance-inducing layers of droning, pulsing sub-bass, it’s the first album by Williams that focuses so closely on vocals. It’s also one of his most sophisticated; while the guest voices are often untouched save for some HD reverb, they can multiply and refract upon themselves at any time, while unexpected and indistinct voices and sounds emerge from the aether throughout. It’s beautiful in its subtleties, delicately crushing in its depth.

For the contemplating mind, the balance of the vocals is perfect. The waves of sound don’t guide the meditative process so much as drag it on a monolithic slab. Olsen is the most constant presence, and her soaring and breathy incantations on “Babel“, “Goetia” and the immense “Chorazin” make up the first piece of the ritual, rich in emotion yet distant, removed from the realm of man’s knowing. By contrast, the monastic ululations of Soriah’s “Grigori” bring to mind the  simple starkness of desert dust and self-imposed solitude that eventually becomes a looming monstrosity of weight. “Andras Sodom” is perhaps the most ‘modern’ piece, with a few touches that evoke the looped and repitched productions of Holy Other. Combined with the erotic asexuality of Jarboe’s voice, the rhythmic throb of bass and the washes of stereo static summon both the image of sterile electronics and the instinctive language of Flesh. We lose ourselves in our technological fetishizations, so we must surrender to emptiness to be made whole again. “Abbadon” collapses this emptiness inside itself, revealing a black hole of saw-edged drones and a descending chorus of Keenan that gradually develops into the organ-led pulse of “Y Gair”. Once more Olsen embraces the ear, bringing us back in ascension. The complex geometries of the album’s cover illustration act as a cipher for the words behind the wordless vocalizations, signs and sigils entwined with technology and nature. The inner pages are darker gray, the sleeves charcoal and the vinyl black; a simple yet appropriate aesthetic of descent for the weight of the aural chasm within.

The Word As Power births a landscape of sound that is grim, frightening and bleak, no word of which has to mean depressing. In Williams’ world, scared is sacred. Through fear, he takes the listener on a revelatory journey which might not feel very holy, but just might make them feel whole. In a landscape of mantras and mottos, compasses and cubes, the center of the album’s cover  is Void—an absence that is deliberate and illuminating, for at the center we must always find and define only our Selves. ~


Lustmord’s The Word As Power is out now on Blackest Ever Black.

Published July 09, 2013. Words by Daniel Jones.