Dreams, confessions, and references to deadly Biblical women form the ethereal imagery of Several Wives’ Göldi fell, its pensive, hypnotic drones evoking those symbolist 19th century paintings in which orientalism is a gateway to the edges of reason, to a past whose imagination still haunts the present. The sparse rhythms, seemingly a dense cluster of string strikes, prevent the music from simply floating away in a smoke-cloud of incense and wayward visions, allowing the powerful shrieks and rasps extracted from the instruments to blossom into the here and now. Like the bloodied, hanging head of a saint, the violence of these noises is simultaneously bright and terrifying, the assurance of the beyond also a reminder of the fragility of the rest.
The uncanny language articulated by the sounds in this album is one of struggle, one in which harmonies are opaque and always at a loss, chords achingly shifting into something whose meaning seems destined to remain at the tip of the tongue. It is the struggle of everything against nothing, the theatricality of being or not being condensed in anxious screeches and slowly exploding riffs against a background of dissipating echoes and powerfully slow rhythms. As in the paintings, the brilliance of colors blends with the dreariness of a truth that cannot be named, lurking in the crackle of fires lit by opiate states of mind. These images are neither fully formed nor too vague to be called formless; they remain stuck in between, memories that, like “Her on the phone”, are fighting so hard to manifest it is impossible to say whether they belong to us or to the void. “Dark ambience”, as the press kit calls it, is doing this music an injustice – it is not passive, nor is it meant to freely engage your attention. Like a parasite it digs a hole into the mind’s tissue, like a spark of paranoia it wishes to enslave your ear to the black sun of melancholy.
The longer we remain in this place, the more things melt into a strident molasses. The last tracks are much more stable than the first, their cadence like a raga, leaning into the orientalist image of the unknown, of irrationality taking the shape of a faraway mystic’s poetry. But just like the track names suggest myths misremembered (“The Blinding of Delilah”, whereas in the story it is Samson who is blinded; “Our man, Salomé”, the woman who was brought John the Baptist’s head on a silver platter, now a man in a phrase out of a secret agent movie), the music’s stability is a tricky continuation of the album’s struggle, the stability a smokescreen of violence with which to hide the faceless smile of despair echoing underneath. The thunderous last track, “Confession Ballad five”, synthesizes all the album’s previous elements into a grand last drone dance, its hypnotizing rhythm pulling your mind away and discarding it amongst the high-pitched noises and scratches of toiling harmonies. It suggests beauty in the same way that the bejeweled skulls of long-buried Catholic martyrs do: nothingness is to be found in splendorous ornament, in the ways in which tones and sounds strikingly melt into each other and thus, at their most undeniably present, cease to be. (David Murrieta Flores)