Helm, The Hollow Organ


In cinematic terms, the uncanny is often more unsettling than the gratuitous. The slow intrusion of the untoward into a domestic setting (think “Eraserhead” or “Repulsion,” say) has so often yielded genuinely frightening results; and so it is with electronic music, where Helm is a past master of adopting concrete techniques to create unnerving passages. His previous work for PAN — 2012’s Impossible Symmetry and last year’s Silencer — hit mauve notes that spoke of a deep encroaching dread, and the the four tracks on The Hollow Organ are similarly expansive in their use of found sound, knackered electronics, and strange acoustics to plow dead-eyed territory: negative energies clacking through hidden pipes.

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The application of fragmented static and white noise over rich pads provide a grandiose intro in the form of “Carrier,” a throbbing, two-note bass providing a sense of bleak urgency. “Analogues” is a more abrasive listen that hinges on sheet-metal reverberations panning from left to right. Listening on headphones, the physical sensation is one of notable unbalance, to the point where you may even begin to feel slightly queasy after a while. It’s an oppressive sensation; after a couple of minutes you begin to feel hemmed in, as if circled by some loping hound. Creaking echo, far-off string sounds and unknown field recordings (Key and lock? Padded hoofs?) are all added, creating a murky soup of unknown savor.

“Spiteful Jester” is an exercise in redlined menace, the droning physical hum of a wall of amplification calling to mind the complete immersion of Earth or Sunn O))), offering sound as an all encompassing meditative device. It’s an interesting effect: the sound of machinery breathing and waking. “The Hollow Organ” itself builds for 10 minutes and adds various natural sound sources to the mix before the titular organ comes lurching into view, distorted and decayed, like some inebriated, 18th-century, Austro-Hungarian organist, missing the notes after too much wine. Indeed, it is perhaps to the psychic deliverance of the best drone music to which “The Hollow Organ” can best be compared. Full-body music that commands absolute attention on behalf of the listener, an investment of commitment for the duration. A roiling audio broth Helm has created here, and one that stays with you a good while.

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