Joseph Davenport (aka Millipede) describes Realms as “harsh noise shoegaze”. Perhaps that should be “shoegaze harsh noise” instead? This is very much a shoegaze variant of harsh noise rather than the inverse, and while Davenport’s guitar strums may have existed as wispy melodies at some point in the creation process, the distortion has churned them up into a continuous jet of spitting, buzzing abrasion. Shoegaze’s preoccupation with FX gently tugs the music away from the wholly organic and human, while harsh noise multiplies this effect until only the smallest morsels of musical “life” can be traced in amongst the hyper-mangled ferocity.
In fact, it’s almost as though Millipede pushes the trademark aspects of shoegaze into extremity. Reverb doesn’t so much blur transitions between notes as blend them into a harmonic mess; rhythm’s subordinate role is reduced until it becomes virtually absent altogether, to the extent where even the lapse of time is difficult to track. There’s still that warmth and radiance that is so synonymous with shoegaze, but it’s deliberately taken into an aggressive and unnatural excess.
There are a few points at which this genre marriage doesn’t work so well, and this tends to be during the sparser, more openly “melodic” pieces. Distortion is used here as an inflection more than as an entity of its own, crackling intermittently over some of the louder and more pronounced notes. The “music” and “noise” feel too separate here, with those patches of clipping seeming a rather pointless and ineffective addition to the pensive guitar plucks and strums.
But for a majority of this album, Realms feels very pure and effective in its execution. I’m reminded ever so slightly of Skullflower (and to a lesser extent, Vomir) for the way in which a single idea is realised and re-realised through a variety of means (different melodies, different techniques) – for how the identity of each track lies in its construction more so than in its overall sound, and thus is more evident to the creator than the listener. But to “learn” each track – and to familiarise one’s self with those tiny movements that make each one distinct – is a most enjoyable challenge, and one that makes Realms worth each re-visit.