Review: Sult + Lasse Marhaug – Harpoon

coverWood attached to metal, attached to wood, pulled taut by horsehair, pulled taut by wood, splintered by metal, mangled by wood, crushed by metal. If I visualise Harpoon in my head, it’s the most atrocious mess: an orchestral storage cupboard undergoing a ransacking by some feral demons of anti-music, with cymbals wedged into the torso of double bass, drums punctured and gutted violin bows draped over the clutter like the dry hair of corpses, seams of glue and nails ripped apart with bare hands. Choirs of metal joints sing in the most shrill and aggrieved high tones, like spectators whimpering at the sight of instruments being torturously scrapped and crushed and smacked. I’ve heard aggressive and loud improvisation before, but this tips over into the malicious. At least when rockstars smash their guitars into the floor, the impact is mercilessly brief. The destructive ritual of Harpoon is slow to the point of indulgently cruel.

The record was performed by Sult and then constructed/produced by Lasse Marhaug. Presumably part of Marhaug’s role was to take the energy of the original and amplify it: three players become 12 (or at least, three players fantasised as having eight tendril limbs apiece), the dry friction of bows on strings becomes the wrench of a medieval torture rack, while the rattle of percussion becomes the clamorous downward discharge of a junkyard dumpster truck, generating a waterfall of bolts and broken motors and unhinged car doors. Yet crucially, Marhaug retains the tactility of that boisterous, player-on-instrument intimacy. Even as my ears are crammed full of the sounds of mangled instrument chassis, I’m also painfully aware of the broken nails, perspiration and muscle twitches that bring this cruelty to be.