Moss
Cthonic Rites
Aurora Borealis
2005
B+



thankfully, there are chance occurrences that happily rearrange one’s learned preconceptions; a steady diet of moth-eaten literary anthologies is thwarted with but a brief glance at Borges, a few sentences of Simon’s The Flanders Road. When rules of form are forgotten the only possible noun that can nudge between law and liberty is possibility. The same goes for music of course, where an adolescence of Deep Purple and Dio is turned on its numbed ear with one yawning drone of The Stooges’ “We Will Fall.” But what to do when form is laid waste to, attacked by a sort of feigned acumen—a sonic wolf in sheep’s clothing? Short-lived Bay Area fuk-punk outfit Bumblescrump did just that at least once, scribbling a 15-second screamer onto a few grooves of a Kill Rock Stars comp and then wiping it away with barbed wire rags. The track, appropriately titled “White Out,” hammers hardcore to an oak stump and sets it afire; the conclusion persistently smokes around post-performance chatter: “Dude, that was outta control,” says one voice. “I don’t know what happened; that song just totally disappeared,” says another. Apparently reductionist terrorism is a great way to coerce budding bands into abridging their art: See Melt Banana, Anal Cunt, early incarnations of Napalm Death. And then there’s the other side of the coin.

Saint Vitus slowed Sabbath down; plopped a few “fizzies” into Pentagram’s grog. Bands like Winter and Thergothon lowered their selves further into the anus of the abyss, disappearing in the lowest of Low End. By the time Khanate came together, Doom Metal had become an online marketplace selling point; Khanate crept so far from it that their brand of music could only be described in physiological terms; its ultimate effect was repulsion; those that hopelessly tried to handle it were turned away: Sound as empty house; rooms with neither walls nor doors; a home without its inhabitants. There was nothing there to touch, to see or hear, in the first place. Fair England’s Moss takes this physiological deprivation even further, dropping Doom Metal into a bottomless well, sealing it shut with a noxiously symbolic mortar that offers the only “touchstone” to their untouchable sound.

Cthonic Rites, Moss’ first full-length release, impeccably presented/packaged by Aurora Borealis, is fitted with Lovecraftean imagery, slates of automatic writing piled into palimpsest; wan, floating figures, Pan puffing fetid breath into pipes. Two tracks, “Crypts of Somnambulance,” and “The Gate” make for over an hour of fractured drumming, disembodied guitar groans, German dental work as vocals; “lyrics” are anesthetic-free molar extractions where nonsensical verbiage is slowly bled, rolled down the chin in thick black streams. Analogues are nearly non-existent, with Unearthly Trance’s Hadit providing only a semblance of what’s served up by Cthonic Rites, as “Crypts” crawls through urban rubble searching vainly for satisfaction. Henry Kaiser and Jim O’Rourke attempted this sort of sonic tease with one-off jester outfit Brise Glace, subverting rock structure and cleaning it free of climax. Moss ably engages similar notions, limiting the union of guitar and drums, making their congress all the more potent when skin and string clash. Guitarist Dom Finbow harnesses his instrument’s capability extraordinarily well, sending its sound soaring over cymbals and shrieks like a skin kite; careening towards earth in roiling sears of feedback. When drummer Chris Chantler holds off on the punishment, vocalist Olly Pearson rasps over Finbow’s feed, an asthmatic drowning in electricity’s undertow.

There is no rest between cuts; “Crypts’” fade out falls into “The Gate,” a conspicuous title considering that this music is not only free of frame, but also too fucking large to contain. Having said that, Moss accesses aperture in other ways, finding exit in the earth itself, pouring its static bog of sound into an unwilling orifice. What’s there to do when it’s spat back, tossed out as soon as the “song” is stripped of its skin, gristle and bone? Like Chris McGrail’s and Howard Mardsen’s Slomo, Moss finds a way to slip into the subconscious, with an existence undeniable, yet never wholly available even as it slowly slips out of the speakers. For those that either champion or comfortably aspire towards genre constraint with status quo laze, Moss’ Cthonic Rites will come across as so much caustic babble—music made incoherent by its own immunity. But for those ready and willing for music as destroyed nebula, as cancerous haze, search no more: Look therein.


Reviewed by: Stewart Voegtlin
Reviewed on: 2006-04-04
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