Review: John Wiese – Seven of Wands

It’s easy to underestimate the effect a good track title can have on the atmospheric provocation of a musical piece. The second track of John Wiese’s Seven of Wands is a thick stream of abrasive sound – ghoulish wails, metallic scrapes, motor grinds – that cascades past the listener’s ears with an uneasy, claustrophobic proximity. It’s only midway through my first listen that I became aware of the track’s title, at which point the semantics of the sounds slotted into place: “Scorpion Immobilisation Sleeve” began to smother and provoke the sound of life-dependant struggle, with the crumple of thick plastic crackling all around the ears as the creature squirms and cracks to fend off its own suffocation. Seven of Wands is at its best when it cocoons; when the sound is allowed to manifest in sickening detail and trickle into the cochlea.

This disturbing sense of intimacy isn’t always comprised of spiky, harsh details. “Alligator Born In Slow Motion” softens the jagged edges into muffled drones and lingering sub-bass heard beyond the moist casing of the womb – the listener is still tightly enveloped, but in a manner that provokes more comfort than unease. Closing piece “Don’t Stop Now You’re Killing Me” even dares to push the album’s imposing walls outward for its opening minutes (if only slightly), and provokes a slight sense of space with its ghoulish blur of feedback and string resonance. Of course, these slight breaks in intensity make its return all the more potent. This final track is perhaps the most striking example, veering beautifully between capture and release; the listener is tortured with illusional flashes of liberation, as lush drone expanses slam shut at the hands of torture device clunks and suffocated drum kit.