As well as being the title of The Letter’s opening track proper (following a cool announcement of the album title by vocalist Nina Bosnic), the word “- Gag” slots in perfectly with the atmosphere at work here. Everything sounds stifled: rasping distortion is strained out in sickening dry heaves, percussion flaps and rattles desperately in an attempt to ascend above the constrictive layers of sound that choke and press inwards, while Bosnic’s calm vocal utterances arrive as muffled word outlines, as though half-heard from behind black, woollen veils. Space is occasionally permitted to arise between the noise, at which point the listener is truly enlightened to the claustrophobia of their surroundings: sound seems to bounce right back off of metallic walls mere inches away on all sides, firing inwards as a cold, abrupt echo.
Rhythm often comes thumping upward from beneath the earth, thumping and rumbling in ritualistic cycles to which the rest of the texture slabs vaguely adhere. Drones scrape over the beats with a tectonic friction – taking the form of ghostly dissonant flutes, buried machinery whirr or creaky wails of violin – while voices mumble and chatter over the top. In fact, for all of the eerie sonic material that stutters and judders across the audio space, the most disturbing sound is in fact the most instantly familiar: Bosnic’s words are beautifully placed within each of these soundscapes and become an increasingly harrowing presence throughout; flatly pronounced from a mouth that feels dead and utterly disconnected, or at least immune to the twisted dissonance that writhes on all sides.