Psychotic inclinations are given unprecedented access and total control to the circuitry. The musical block is put into a state of lockdown. A vicious attack on the drone ensures warfare on a large scale. Violence is carved into the music, which pushes against the current accepted trends and popularity contests. It is a cry of anguish that grinds against the way of the world. This is the dissonant rage against the machine.
Seven minutes in, the razor-wire is breached and a brilliant black harmony intrudes, piercing the noise with its own fury. This is A State of Unwavering Contempt. In a state of raw flux, drones are swept into the fight against pure noise, but the ultimate champion – for now, at least – is the roaring cacophony of chaos. It reigns supreme.
Clouded by an uncertain future, the unstable drones are spiked horns of war that call their soldiers to the fight. Harmony stands no chance as they swoop down on the unsuspecting victim. Recorded in Iran, Tehran and on board airliners between Cairo, Stockholm and London, A State of Unwavering Contempt is a remarkably cohesive album. The continents are connected by a conflict, losing their way in a sprawl of dark thoughts, unrelenting caverns that never suffer from the fatigue of jet-lag once the flight has ended. The brutal, noisy rebellion could have arisen from the continuing upheaval in the Middle East, or it might have its origins in the London riots that took place two years ago. It is the sound of the dropping bomb, the midnight soundtrack to chaos.
Mohammed Ashraf has, as Pie Are Squared, produced his darkest music to date; it is an attack on the stable, bright drones and the energetic rhythms that have characterized his music and preceded the current storm. When the drones are destroyed, the emptiness paves the way for riotous disorder, approved by the military leader. It’s the real wrecking ball; not the Miley Cyrus version of events. It’s a backlash that is hell-bent on destroying the overly commercial, overtly sexual (female exploitation or female empowerment?) state of the music industry and the executives who crawl back to the sewers after a hard day ironing out the image rights and the I-IV-V chord progressions (the next big hit!). Ironically, the new state has a tremendous amount of freedom – possibly more so than before – unrestrained by any kind of rhythmic policing. It’s a battlefield out there.
The psychotic noise – “Stabbed in the Ear With a Butter Knife” – cuts the music up into mangled shreds, the sound of a guitar morphing into the shriek of a war-torn horn. Beats are pulled back in on themselves, recoiling as the life is sucked out of them. The blade-sharp intensity spills over the beat to come, tripping over its sibling in panic. The beats cook up a frothing cluster grenade that lies locked inside a dungeon of noise. Notes slide up and down the distorted fretboard like rungs on a ladder, but there are no scales here. Pie Are Squared’s music has grown wiser, older. The growling bass is sharp enough to leave a sizable indentation on the spiral above.
It’s alive, ready to cut through the wire. It is pulverizing dark ambient, twisted at the roots. The padded beats, reminiscent in tone to that of Steve Reich’s dronescapes, let up after the storm, but the apocalyptic after-party is still in full swing; the looped ashes are the only proof of the ritual after sunset. Public Enemy fought the power with their lyrics, “I got so much trouble on my mind / Refuse to lose”. The protest against the system has found a new channel. Welcome to the terror dome. (James Catchpole)