artifacts of the no-audience underground – the last border

February 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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La Última Frontera – The Last Border – La Dernière Frontiere – Die letzte Grenze – Uma última Fronteira

by Alexis Brantes, Malakias, Bicho, Stijn van Cauter, Outro

Should you find yourself snowed in and unable to come to the gig tonight (details below) here is something to occupy your time until the thaw…

With his trademark enthusiasm and determination my Mexican cousin Miguel Perez is on a mission.  His goal is simple but ambitious: he wishes to alert the far-flung outposts of the no-audience underground to the work being produced in his part of the world.  He has, in effect, become RFM’s South American correspondent.  I am very grateful for his efforts and his latest lesson has hipped me to something remarkable: as soon as I lamented that my review cupboard was bare, Miguel was backing up the truck with a massive delivery from the wholesaler…

For once I do not exaggerate.  This album, if you can call it that, comprises one track, if you can call it that, which is eight hours and fifty eight minutes long.  Yes, you read that right: one track – nine hours.  Well, to describe it as one track is slightly disingenuous.  The piece is made up of many movements, which take many styles and there are often lulls or even brief moments of silence between them.  It is more like an epic mix-tape compiled from dozens of tonally resonant sources.

How on earth does one review, or even approach, a project of such prodigious girth?  You would have to be a speed freak rivalling Metal Machine Music-era Lou Reed to get through it in one sitting and attend to every moment with rapt concentration.  That was beyond me, obviously, but I could commit to listening to nothing but this track on my mp3 player from when I pressed play to when it finished.  I thereby listened to the lot over three days of commuting, lunchtime strolls, a trip there and back to the Fox & Newt and the cooking of a leek and chorizo risotto.

The originators of this recording are a Chilean collective called FunerART posmoGroup and a visit to their website reveals they are big on the vocabulary of the dismal:

FunerART posmoGROUP is a underground doom, dark ambient, black doom, depressive black, atmosphere funeral doom, ethereal, death doom, extreme doom, post doom and drone record/net label…

Now, I associate the concept of ‘doom’ in a musical context with that slow, viscous variant of metal that specialises in dread-invoking heaviness.  However, there is almost none of that here: no screamed vocals, no roiling riffs drenched in overdrive.  Instead this is surprisingly spacious and only occasionally noisy.  The production is high end with extraneous crackle kept to a minimum and the editing is sympathetic, rhythmic and of an almost perfectly judged pace.  In a piece where some motif could literally be repeated for hours, nothing really outstays its welcome.

There are spells of contemplation, even, dare I say it, soulfulness.  The tone throughout is sombre and melancholy and is maintained with an awe-inspiring consistency across the sub-genres of noise, improvisation and electronics visited.  Dark ambient atmospherics may follow pure-tone throbs which may follow some fuzzed-out shoegaze and so on.  And on.  And on.  ‘Doom’ in this case has a more generally applicable meaning, I guess: despair is forever with us and takes many forms.

You might expect longueurs in a piece this, er…, long but there are virtually none.  With the proviso that I have a high tolerance for this kind of thing, I was not bored at any point.  About a third of the way in (I think) the use of very slow arpeggios was briefly maddening but otherwise it was engaging throughout and more than repaid my sporadic attention.  There are surprising moments – at about the six hour mark, for example, an oily throb is disturbed by a beautiful, crystalline guitar plink – and there are ego-dissolving patches of dreamlike reverie – such as the organ drone finale – but, but…

And here the problem of reviewing such an epic concern reduces me to helpless laughter.  What am I going to do?  List the good bits?  Try and find a representative 40 minutes and concentrate on that?  I don’t know.  In my notes I have jotted down amusingly unhelpful comments like ‘fifth hour better than fourth hour’.  The scale of the thing blurs detail but also stretches generalities until they are meaningless.  Perhaps the most useful thing I can do is address the question: “would you ever listen to the whole thing again?”  The answer is: “yes, I would – gladly.”

More details of the group’s work and an enticing back catalogue of free to download releases can be found at the FunerART website.  A booklet to accompany this particular release can be found as a pdf on its page.  Which brings me to the final amazing thing about this jaw-dropping venture: it is available to download for free.  FunerART’s slogan is ‘Free Music for Free People’ – an impressively noble sentiment – and the fruits of their labour are low-hanging and can be picked by anyone passing by.

I see that, at the time of writing, The Last Border has been available for about two years and has been downloaded 219 times.  Now, part of me is thinking ‘hey, not bad’ – most of the releases I talk about here are produced in editions of 50 to 100 – but another part of me can’t help but be heartbroken that so few have taken advantage.  Why not soundtrack your life with this for a few days?

To download The Last Border for free from click here.

1 Comment »

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  1. I notice that is part one.

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