Review: Pharmakon – Contact

sbr175-pharmakon-300The loops are walls. Recurrent pulses and buzzes repeat until they solidify, thickening into three inches of steel, then four as the loop returns again, asserting themselves on all sides of the stereo frame, sealing off all potential routes of exit. For a record that concerns itself with the act of transcendence – travelling out of the body via an intensely physical music – these loops are a paradox. So often I perceive looping as an spiritually projective act, repeating gestures until they shed their corporeal surface and become something much more profound. There’s an element of that on Contact. Yet ultimately, I can’t shake the sense that the loops are the very barrier to transcendent escape. These clotted lattices of feedback and object rise like totemic amalgams of junkyard mess, funnelling rust into amputated car doors and crooked girder limbs into hunks of unidentifiable grey. I’m surrounded by incestuous, violently serrated odes to materialism and our preoccupation with waste. Distortion and electronics intensify. The walls get higher and thicker.

In a bid to overcome the very barricade she’s built for herself, I hear Margaret Chardiet forcing her spirit upward out of her mouth. It’s the only way out. As the walls creep higher her screams become louder, ejected like missiles into the sky, vacating her body in a manner that feels anguished but also thoroughly liberated. On tracks like “No Natural Order” – where her shrieks catapult off the sounds of explosion and ascend through splinters of glass – am I bearing witness to an emotional intensity? Or is this simply the physical force required to unbind the voice from the flesh that brings it to be? Just as the loops of noise signify both the quest for transcendence and its very obstruction (so beautifully encapsulated in the eternally ascending glissando cocoon of “Sentient”, whose upward trajectory is little but an illusion), Chardiet’s voice co-opts the vocalisations of human despondency to press away from worldly concern, embodying shrill terror and hyperventilated despair until she bursts right out of them. The walls are high, but Pharmakon’s determination stretches higher still.