The mystery of Horror Vacui begins with the Rorschach test of the cover. To me, it looks like an Icelandic cave; it’s actually an MRI of the human brain. So close! The title refers to the tendency of an artist to fill all available space, reflecting the famous aphorism, “nature abhors a vacuum.” As the EP progresses, Harnes Kretzer does exactly that, crowding out the light with ever more oppressive layers. The titles: “AGEN$,” “TREM0R,” “DESPER0” and “0BLIGATI0,” seem to refer to an advancing illness (and perhaps, due to the zeros and dollar sign, an expensive one). Assemble the pieces, and the plot makes sense. This is the short score to a debilitating brain disease, a fight that cannot be won, noble yet dark, with an unhappy yet resonant ending.
The symphonics lift this EP over others of its ilk. The orchestral elements never seem to give up, even when drowned out. Legible in the opening track, the notes are as hopeful as a pilgrim on the first leg of a journey. The piano strikes a hero’s theme; perhaps no sacrifices will need to be made. Percussion, electronics and brass paint a happy picture, but this is no overture; it’s innocence. The slower, sadder “TREM0R” allows reality to seep in, a mournful adagio. The main theme is repeated, more resonant each time; there’s no escaping this diagnosis. And then the EP’s highlight, “DESPER0,” which comes across as a losing battle, a last scream into the night. A squeak of protest is met by a reduction in viscosity, a final pause before the plunge. Try as the strings may, they cannot halt the encroaching darkness, only establish a longer echo. The opening bars of “0BLIGATI0” sound like “Taps,” suffused with a sense of inevitability.
The EP’s only real downside is its length; the four tracks seem like part of a larger work, and may one day be expanded into such. On the other hand, diseases are often diagnosed quickly, and loved ones are lost much sooner than expected. In this sense, the length imitates the experience of being robbed; so much goodness, gone before we had the chance to say goodbye. (Richard Allen)