Despite its bad reputation, horror often tackles some weighty issues. This is the case on the split release from drone artists Gridfailure and Feel Happiness, two solo performers with more on their minds than noise. Even if one is unaware of the politics behind the release, one may still find catharsis in the listening.
The most obvious track, Feel Happiness‘ “God Bless You All On The Earth,” is the only one to make use of words. A young couple debates whether or not to have children in the era of climate change. “Why would you inflict that on someone?” the female asks. Static rises in the background like Chernobyl. A dark piano plays. The male chimes in. “I’m scared of it,” he admits. The music drowns his words like a rising tide. Years ago, “horror” meant the supernatural; now it’s real. In an eerie parallel, recent environmental pullbacks by the United States government have exacerbated the crisis, while the voices of the young have been shouted over or ignored. The track was strong enough without the voiceover, but the artist took a small risk, “sacrificing” the lead story to the words, an honorable sign of commitment. In his other offerings, Texas’ Lane Oliver continues the apocalyptic theme, ending on a dour note (“All You Are Is Meat”), leaving behind an open-ended question: if we are meat, isn’t the planet more important?
Gridfailure turns out to be the perfect partner. New York artist David Brenner is frequently heard in collaboration with others, which may have led some to believe that he is a vocal artist, but his work here is completely instrumental. Sharing the dark tone of Feel Happiness, Brenner adds an industrial undercurrent, heavy on electronics although light on beats. “This Liquefaction” starts with the sound of sirens: somewhere, someone is melting. This apocalyptic territory is all too real; all it takes is one natural disaster to start a chain reaction. The song has a pulse, apparent in the dark chords, but the foreground is all feedback and bees. “Cryomechanical” begins with distorted wind and proceeds to introduce cold, harsh tones, a reflection of an emotionless wasteland. Even this comes across like a clarion call, akin to the science fiction films in which a character returns from the future and tries to warn others to avoid a seemingly inevitable fate.
Is it irresponsible to have children? Is society already too far gone? Should we give up our current preferences in art and look for beauty in dystopian crumble, in order to beat the curve? These artists may approach from different angles, but they agree on one sobering fact: it’s terrifying out there, and without immediate action, it’s only going to get worse. (Richard Allen)