New Works from Zoharum

Kryptogen Rundfunk | Tales from the Mirrored Spaces (CD/2xCD/DL)
NNHMN | Church of No Religion (CD/DL)

Though the headless coverart work may be slighty off-putting to some onlookers, they scream of fantasies imposed by all hallow’s eve. These two new releases from Polish imprint Zoharum, could not be more different thematically, but are both incredibly nuanced with mystery and melody.

Russian sound artist Artyom (M.M.) or Kryptogen Rundfunk has been recording for nearly sixteen years, here employing mouth harp, bowed guitar, metal plate, singing bowl as well as voice. His sensitive reverberations are as delusory as they are orphic. One may feel an uncertain slip into a dizzying sense of apprehension after only the opening track, and the additional eight that follow. The artist conducts a theremin-like buzz at such low range you practically feel it in your knees.

Through the treatments, looper, and delays the aching calm mirrors a generator at times. Nested on Shapeshifter’s Lair are these grunts ala animalia, and occasional tonal shifting that guides the ear. The soft purr of power, just under the surface. There seems to be an investigation of layers, both industrial and via muted and implied forms of communication, especially as this breaks from the quiet corners on Attention Selector, with its industrial guise and redacted radio transmissions.

The recording delves into drone, ambient, into surging electronics, and man-made effects that twist the imagination. There are temporary passages that sound like a giant airplane hangar, and nosedive scenarios that seem to rise from the mix. The titles deal with chemistry and the flux of consciousness, all while offering a mostly retreating, draining ambient drone. Out from the silences again, on Shores of Insanity, comes a wall of stringed white noise built upon harmonic engines. It’s like an incessant jam session, conjuring a whaling barrage of sonic lines in the air.

For me, the standout comes toward the end within the breathing world of Freon Flux, with its watery, broken and recycled ambient scape, the crunch of wrappers, static and other tactile elements, makes for a perfect recipe. For these ears, Artyom’s most effective in his most intimate scenarios.

Pronounced non-human Church of No Religion is the latest from NNHMN, a Berlin duo (Lee & Laudarg) who makes fluttering electronic work that falls between techno and the grey area of ambient. It melds pulsating late 80’s synth-powered electronic music with the tilt-a-whirl of Philip Glass, all masterfully blended through a tribal beat. There’s something instantly familiar, almost charming, to the opening tracks Kedar and Haxan, but born in echoing hallowed halls. Whatever your denomination, this will appeal to lovers of IDM, EBM, and goth alike.

Through the catchy rhythms the whispering ‘in-tongues’ murmurs float about, sometimes in the deep recesses, and then in your ears, almost ringing. Behind the minimal percussion are hive-like effects and the metonymy of classic horror scores at the barest of a glance. Army of Mary seems like a déjè vus of something we already heard in the prior tracks, while Ariel offers a break in the upbeat measures, with a wafting, undulating instrumental refrain.

It’s obvious that one of the central focuses here is on the beat itself, oscillating throughout. These are almost songs, but divorced from the typical sing-song structure, fading and rising with an emotive nature. Described as a “collection of purgatory poems and lamentations” I definitely can see (and hear) their vision about connotations, tropes and bastardized implications of world religions as we have grown to know them over the millenia. They don’t smear any particular modality with smoke and mirrors, instead offering their own truth. And though personally this will not convert me into a pact with any religion or absence thereof (nor shall it of you), Church of No Religion offers a haunting conceptualization.

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