Electric Fight Orchestra
Aaron Turner and his Amish beard have been around the world in slow motion. After laying Isis to rest, Turner has dabbled in everything: from the ambient noise of House of Low Culture to the unadulterated, primal bashing of Old Man Gloom to the somber prog-doom of SUMAC. And though he deferred a proper SUMAC offering this year in favor of a litany of other active projects, these little bumps in the road were not enough to stop one of the hardest-working men in post-metal from putting out a new record.
The four songs the make up SUMAC’s newest EP, Before You I Appear, are comprised of remixed material from the tree-themed group’s two previous albums; yet they have precious little in common with their source material. For his remix of “Rigid Oblivion,” British sensation Samuel Kerridge swaps out Turner’s towering, thick guitar tone for electronic echoes, inorganic clicks and mechanical whines, leaving little more than Nick Yacyshyn’s thundering drum work and Turner’s hoarse, abrasive shouts to tie the new iteration to its original form. The result is a jerky, stutter-stepping malformation akin to a surprise internet release from Aphex Twin–a final product that undoubtedly titillated the eclectic Turner.
Under the guise of his new collaborative project, Bleed Turquoise, producer James Ginzburg casts a cloud of shimmering synthetic strings over chopped and screwed percussion samples from “Clutch of Oblivion,” resulting in a new type of sonic sharpness that is in direct contrast with SUMAC’s typical precedent of blunt, overpowering heaviness. The new arrangement maintains the chord structures of the original song, while also introducing a new, beautiful sadness to Turner’s music, making for the album’s unassailable high point. Re-workings of both “Rigid Man in Vain” and “Image of Control” take cues from Turner’s own work in House of Low Culture, as they showcase droning, atonal sound effects and eerie ambiance. While percussion booms on in the background like thunderclaps in the distance, a wall of static grows perpetually closer, as the track trudges onward and eventually devolves into a sea of static and syncopation.
Even though the EP’s four tracks are composed by the non-collaborative work of four different artists in four different basements, Before You I Appear feels oddly cohesive. The overall work is similar to that of a record from Rhode Island-based duo The Body–a combination of creaky sound effects, ambient electronica and straight-ahead doom metal textures that ends up being way, way more unsettling than it has any right to be. This is also the first record in which we are privy to the physical toll of Aaron Turner’s bellowing harsh vocal delivery. Without the distortion to obscure the vocal fraying, listeners will be able to hear the sheer force that the forty-year-old exerts with every diaphragmatic howl, along with the strain and exhaustion that follows. It is amazing what revelations might await discovery through this method of deconstruction and reassembly. Hopefully, Before You I Appear will start a new trend of metal album remixes by electronic artists so that fans can learn even more.