Kreng: Grimoire (CD, Miasmah, June 2011)

So, yes, first of all: Pepijn Caudron has chosen to record under the name Kreng; the album is called Grimoire; the label is Miasmah; the sleeve is entirely black and grey, has a grainy headshot of what might well be a corpse on the front, and makes extensive use of a blackletter typeface… if you want to say “ha ha, goth!” then I will understand. And you might have a point: the first track is composed of scary-movie breathing and scratching noises, a rough buzzing sound, a hellish bassy throb, an ethereal swell of brass, and a posh British voice saying things like “let go of the Earth” and “go towards the light”, and it very much sets the tone for the whole record. Elsewhere, we get knocking sounds which could be a grandfather clock, a heartbeat, or the grim reaper beating at your door; spooky neo-classical drones focussing heavily on the lower end of the register (cellos, bassoons, and double basses abound); baroque chamber music getting slowly eaten away by a low-end distortion effect; funereal piano, courtesy of the seemingly ubiquitous Nils Frahm (who also mastered the album); shuddering, industrial percussion; Caretaker-style hauntology; what could be the introduction to a particularly bleak early Nick Cave number, only here the guitars never kick in and the vocals are replaced by throat singing; in fact, everything any fan of dark ambient / modern classical crossover music with something of the night about them could ask for. It’s constructed with great skill, and hangs together as a piece despite the range of styles. Obviously, I think all this is splendid. I guess the questions are: can we take it seriously, and are we meant to? For the most part, I find that I can, and in places find it genuinely sinister. There are elements — notably the operatic soprano, all dissonant runs and melodramatic portamento — which strike me as deliberate black humour (though really, who knows?). But, of course, there has always been an interesting relationship between horror and humour: by exaggerating the macabre to the point of ridicule, we are able to laugh at our fears… but in the end, we know that death with get the last laugh.

I bought this from Boomkat. They call it Dark Ambient / Drone / Metal.

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