There’s more than a hint of the spiritual on Seraphim, which was inspired by the highest order of angel and written by a producer whose name ~ SHALT ~ recalls the Ten Commandments. The label name (Astral Plane Recordings) is a bonus. One may enjoy this music as a science fiction score accompanying the Adventures of the Angel, or one may delve deeper to decipher the artist’s stated intentions, to explore the moral use and misuse of technology. Isaac Chabon’s vibrant cover art is well-suited to Isaiah’s depiction of seraphim as awe-inspiring, yet terrifying, while the video work of Nick Zhu and Tea Stražičić falls squarely into the science fiction arena.
On the surface, SHALT’s music is rife with technology, industrial in a manner than suggests computers more than factories. Crunching beats, deep bass and walls of distortion represent noise or misuse. But the attention to detail and overt snatches of melody offer a counterbalance: technology as sweet and promising, able to move society forward rather than to crush it between churning gears.
The overture, “Conceived on Ash,” launches with dissonant slides that lead to heavy, club-like drums. But after a series of Carpenter chords, the track collapses, as if the signals can no longer get through the circuit. In its final seconds, the track seems to row across sludge. “Preserved in Amber” follows, recalling the best work of Intermix crossed with that of Numb. On a dance floor, without liner notes, will anyone intuit the meaning? It’s possible: the robotic rhythms and warm pads sketch the outline without words. The ethereal angle is efficiently conveyed through the calmer, more organic “Seraph,” while the military angle (technology co-opted for violent means) is represented by the military drums of “Fleeting.” The title and timbre of the finale, “Charred, Cleansed,” invite multiple readings: on the cynical side, a post-Skynet apocalypse, and on the hopeful side, a populace that has pulled back from the brink. SHALT’s words indicate an affinity for the latter; seldom has dark music sounded so light. (Richard Allen)