Demdike Stare, Liberation Through Hearing


Image by Karl Gerstner

[Modern Love]


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That Demdike Stare fill my head with images of the occult and druids should be no surprise. With Ouija board record covers and a name referencing an old English woman accused of witchcraft, it’s clear that Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty want to create the Wicker Man soundtrack that never was. Leaving behind most of the techno that could be found in last year’s Symbiosis (and on Modern Love as a whole), their planned 2010 run of three LPs is a lot more abstract and soaked in gallons of dread. Forest of Evil played with dub sounds and drones on the “Dusk” side but it was the “Dawn” side’s brutal, possessed tribal drum circle and unsettling aftermath that saw things get truly evil. The second volume in this story, Liberation Through Hearing reveals that was only the beginning.

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Where Forest of Evil was a trip through Dante’s selva oscura, Liberation Through Hearing drops us not in limbo but in the darkest part of the wood. Immediately oppressive low end tones creak out of the monitors, and the narcotic plodding and hazy choral conjurings of “Caged in Stammheim” set a pretty dark stage (Stammheim here sounds not like the famous prison of Baader/Meinhof fame but like some medieval equivalent). “Eurydice” features more dense bass tones that are seemingly relentless but subside for a couple brief moments of levity. We all know how this story ends, however, as Orpheus looks back and the unbearable bass returns with sinister, twisted voices. Each track here has its own vivid narrative, from “Regolith”‘s static rumbling and distant foghorns to “Bardo Thodol”‘s composed incantations, but they all play a significant part in the overall narrative — the story of which is up to each listener.

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It’s usually pretty hard to tell where Sean Canty’s sampled archives end and Miles Whittaker’s production begins, which is what makes the Demdike Stare project so appealing. Liberation Through Hearing resembles at once a collection of obscure sounds found on dusty old records but is at the same time highly composed and expertly paced. Liberation Through Hearing, both the record and the Tibetan Book Of The Dead, document not a single moment but a journey full of lucid hallucinations. And a thrilling journey at that, since Demdike Stare have produced some of the darkest, most immersive and exceptional music this year.

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