A Journal Of The Dark Arts
Label: Hopsital Productions
Release Date: 10.29.13
Sounds Like: The bones of techno, re-animated by a white noise pulse demon from 1978.
For Fans Of: Regis, Silent Servant, Muslimgauze, Cut Hands, Carl Craig, Vomir
Remember Your Black Day is listed as Dominick Fernow‘s first “proper album” under Vatican Shadow, which says something as he’s put out over 20 camouflage-specked releases under the name, to date. RYBD finds Fernow stripping down his Brutalist collage techno even further, down to a nearly blank canvas of stark industrial rhythms with the barest smear of atmospheric synthesizers. It’s his most focused, and most polished, work to date.
Vatican Shadow was born during the incessant touring of Prurient, Dominick Fernow’s noise beast that brought him to widespread attention. The project’s inception was brought on by a cold sweat fusion of rhythmic noise, like Muslimgauze and Demdike Stare, with repetitive noise, (‘the wheels on the pavement go round and round’). The endless monotony will drive you a little mad. It’s not a far jump from madness to inspiration.
Fernow began experimenting with rhythm, as a counterpoint to the hot white noise confrontation of Prurient. As a producer, and a music fanatic, i can tell you; RHYTHM is the easiest way to organize music and style. It is the skeletal structure on which everything is built; it’s what separates (and conjoins) Trap from Dubstep from a baroque minuet. While it seems that most mainstream Pop seems intent on filling the musical canvas with every sound on Earth, full of studio trickery and endless layering, it can seem impossible to know where to begin, how to continue. Pop Music is like the hag from The Shining; bloated and waterlogged, overfull and stuffed to bursting.
It stands to reason that the noise underground would go against this grain, getting back to basics, and thus, the resurgence of post-punk electronics like cold wave, old skool sci-fi and horror soundtracks, the first wave of dance music, Detroit techno, electro and Chicago house. We are confused and overwhelmed, so we go back to the basics and build whatever we like.
Vatican Shadow packages these rhythmic excursions in militaristic imagery of the first Gulf War, but it seems almost arbitrary. A thought experiment in associations, that suggested a cohesive worldview that spoke more of the interests of the creator than in the sounds contained therein. The works of the prolific Bryn Jones, better known as Muslimgauze, are an undeniable influence. Jones used his fanatical interest in Middle Eastern politics to guide and organize his navigation of the electronic underground across hundreds of releases and a handful of styles, that didn’t always have much to do with the packaging.
Remember Your Black Day is the least indebted to Muslimgauze, of all the VS releases. You won’t find much of Jones’ militant Arabic breakbeat cut-ups, here. RYBD has stripped the rhythmic structure all the way down to a Technoid heartthrob – the efficiency of the 4-to-the-4 floor pulse acting as a scaffolding, to build edifices of paranoia, reminiscence and surprisingly… emotion.
“Enter Paradise” features the unlikely introduction of industrial metalgaze guitars, that throw back to Fernow’s collaboration with Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick, on this year’s JK Flesh/Prurient split. That tiny bit of melody gives the album the briefest hint of humanism. Which is quickly subsumed by the pummeling dystopian trance of the title track, the longest offering, that is guaranteed to roll yr eyes back into yr head like a vodoun, dancing with her snake.
The thing with stripped-down, minimalist music is that it forces the individual elements to be as strong as possible. It’s in these details where Fernow really shines. The kick drums on RYBD range from pillowy, soothing and hypnotic to pummeling skullcrushers. All of the rhythms are carefully EQ’d, to blend seamlessly, without turning the production into soup. When working with loops, it’s entirely too easy for things to get out of hand, transforming yr careful dance masterpiece into a bland, muddy piece of gristle. It is in the production where you can see Fernow’s care and craft, and how he has risen to be a force of nature in the modern noise underground.
Where recent works by Fatima Al Qadiri seem to focus on the image of the Middle Eastern strife, playing through like a sidescrolling action adventure, Vatican Shadow seems to be reflecting the interior, trying to express what it is like to be alive in this world of nonstop conflict. It’s paranoid, pissed off, passionate and alive. It’s both nihilistic and optimistic at the same time. We may be dancing in the ashes, and fiddling while Rome burns, but at least we’re still dancing.
You’d be recommended to seek this out, to find the current state of noisy techno and from there to seek out the earlier releases, as well as chase the breadcrumb trail of Fernow’s other projects and influences.
ESSENTIAL. WELCOME TO THE FUTURE.
favorite tracks: Tonight Saddam Walks Amidst The Ruins, Contractor Corpses Hung Over The Euphrates River, Remember Your Black Day
Get it: Remember Your Black Day