John 3:16 is back again, this time on vinyl, and he’s brought a friend, industrial/hip-hop artist Christophe Gilmore (FluiD). After 25 years in the business, the latter artist is still going strong, perhaps a sign that he was ahead of his time way back when. While most split releases simply present the new works of two different artists, The Pursuit of Salvation offers a unique take: two artists telling two parts of the Exodus story.
Gilmore gets the tough part of the book: the appearance of angels, the plagues and the warning (although it is unclear whether it’s the warning to the Pharaoh or to the Israelites). At first the sonic field is dominated by piano and rising synthetic keys, an overture to the upcoming drama. Then what seems like an amplified locust – the eighth plague, arriving one track early along with slithering and sword sounds. A bell tolls, as if calling the city to repentance or arms.
“Plague” contains an organ, which seems slightly anachronistic. Sure, none of the other sounds would have existed back then, but the organ is commonly associated with church, reflecting a whole different religion – unless this piece is meant to connect Torah to Testament. Drones and drums seep through the backdrop, adding to a necessary sense of disassociation. The strange jabbering sound (found also on John 3:16’s Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God – see that review for details) appears again in altered form on FluiD’s closing piece, sounding somewhat demonic. The distorted vocals, trading between high and low, may be saying “magic” or “magi”, which would make sense in light of the story; Pharaoh’s magicians copied every one of the LORD’s plagues, up to (but not including) the death of the firstborn. This darkness helps to set up the shift to Side B; as the fates of the Israelites change, so does the timbre.
John 3:16 is more drone-oriented than FluiD, but he does an exemplary job in connecting his first piece to FluiD’s last, incorporating once again that industrial drum before allowing it to fade into his piece like shadow into the light of God. “God is Light” then soars with earnest percussion and vast distorted drone, masking (but not obscuring) a holy wail. “Toward the Red Sea” brings the side to a close with mysterious chordal swells and indiscernible words, echoing perhaps the roar of water or the wind that stole the dialogue between Moses and the LORD – although the title indicates those settings were reached later. Suffice it to say that the overall effect is one of undefined yearning.
Holy music that sounds holy often comes across as less so due to its predictability. This 12″ works because it incorporates a sense of the unknowable. Sunday School has never sounded this good. (Richard Allen)