Radio Free Abnegation
The Art to Disappear opens with a set of eerily treated samples from Twin Peaks, including the “Firewalk” poem. Here, the clips are a clear statement of spiritual purpose; this is to be a dark trip through strange netherworlds. Despite a minor paucity of vocals and some stretches of slightly excessive repetition, Spektr ultimately deliver on their promise, creating and gathering strange textures and samples, then uniting them skillfully with their workhorse, black metal sound. This results in a musical departure that is quite unlike anything else.
Spektr are certainly not the first or the last to sample Twin Peaks. Hip Hop/Turntablism fans may be reminded rather sharply of “Transmission 3” (as well as the other two members of the “Transmission” series, which used clips from Prince of Darkness to similar effect) from DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing….. Though that album was far more beat than rock oriented, it represented a certain sensibility: the idea of a bizarro-world, wee-hours radio broadcast, one in which music registering as vaguely familiar has been artfully jumbled into strange but beauteous chimeras – at the hand of an unseen and inscrutable mastermind.
The unseen and inscrutable mastermind in this case is the team of French black metallers kl.K and Hth. Their stock in trade – going all the way back to 2004’s Et Fugit Intera Fugit Irreparabile Tempus – is a phantasmagoria suffused with black metal fury and ominous dread. Their unique approach involves abnegating the idea of straightforward songs for a more slithery progression of parts, which fit together in very oblique ways. On The Art to Disappear, band-sourced vocals are few to none, eschewed for odd, manipulated samples borrowed from cultural artifacts.
The Art to Disappear does not achieve its ideal state right away. The first four tracks use the above ingredients, but long stretches of instrumental black metal lead to a bit of repetition fatigue. However, the quality of the black metal itself on the album is very high. It is fast and full, with distinctive guitar layering, and naturalistic, prominent drums. Accompanied by standard vocals, it would be very strong music in its own right, but that’s not the idea here, and Spektr’s willingness to cut up good product for the sake of their eventual collage indicates a certain commitment to craft.
Furthermore, the by-the-measure quality of the musical blocks used here create a feeling of authorlessness. As if Spektr are delivering artifacts without revealing their provenance, segments that are almost certainly are self-created, but feel as though they could be puzzle pieces discovered in a cave somewhere, configured by our confident archaeologists into a design beyond conventional understanding.
“That Day Will Definitely Come” is where The Art to Disappear hits its stride. Bizarre textures melt into other bizarre textures, guided by a subtle, unorthodox logic. The inscrutability of our eldritch curators drives the fascination. It is possible to sense a malevolent playfulness here, a desire to simultaneously punish and entertain by slamming the listener with long passages of relentless metal, only to dial over to dark Dub, smoky Jazz, or rollicking Hardcore without explanation. One is at the mercy of the sound guardians, and their disorienting surprises can easily become an addiction (not unlike the second disk of 3:33’s Bicameral Brain). What is the tone of The Art to Disappear? Is it standoffish? Brash? Inviting? Darkly comforting? Droll? Despairing? This judgment is in the ear of the beholder, and this freedom of interpretation gives The Art to Disappear much of its appeal.
“We have seen illusion and reality begin to overlap, and fuse. The line between them begins to disappear,” states a sample used in the title track. This disappearance extends to Spektr and their artistry as well. The duo have obliterated their intent and obscured their means of production. They are merely shadowy, unpredictable cyphers – and therefore in possession of black metal’s most desirable persona. But Spektr are not merely blasting, shredding and howling, seeking provocation through blasphemy. They are involved in different taboos, namely playing with genre and using technology, which adds welcome dynamism to their sinister rituals. The Art to Disappear represents the refinement of Spektr’s modus operandi, and a captivating experience for all fans of dark, atmospheric music.