23 Apr 2021 - Chad
Minimalism | Outsider Art | Release date: 22 Apr 2021
A Rope Unfolds in Pitch Black is the latest EP from Material Loss, a project helmed by Chris R. who you may know from his projects Cattle , Bronzed and Soft Issues. His work has traversed a vast array of abrasive genre groupings over the years but, what remains clear is a ceaseless drive for artistry and exploration. His musical output thus far has seemingly been a consistently bleak affair and as someone who shares that grim world view and passion for art as catharsis, I am a big fan.
The title ‘A Rope Unfolds in Pitch Black’ opens the album, all the titles are aptly named poetic summaries of the atmosphere of their namesakes. Moreover, the names of the tracks serve as a key to unlocking the imagination of the listener. Shakespeare once wrote “a rose by any name would smell just as sweet” but, the link between that quote and these titles is context. There’s a symbiotic relationship here between a frequent lyricist and his music that has carried over into titles, using every possible resource to convey an artistic vision and frame the perspective of the audience. The ominousness and simultaneous elegance of the imagery of the opener is matched closely by the audio, centred around a singular drum, delayed and repeated into a hypnotic pulse, the austerity of the track in its low frequency sound bed conveys darkness and desertion effortlessly. The minimalism of the track could well bore people but, the production is solid and fans of dark ambient music, drone and minimalism will surely succumb to its dirgeful allure.
The sophomore entry into the album Light Emitting Wound takes the initial pulsation and adds a fat layer of what I like to call “pants-shitting” sub-frequencies. The track experiments with gently adding tone and subtracting layers to further the sound of the collection. There’s a sense of the EP being one long piece of music or perhaps variations of the same idea taken to different places. The isolated kick at the ending of the track makes me think this track could open a DJ set as the most Goth intro for Iron Man ever. Resolve takes the deconstruction to a whole new level removing the percussion entirely to focus on the somber ambient soundscape. The track sounds like tires gliding crisply through the twilight hours, or a shore of noise drifting into sand. It’s extremely meditative and yet, still evokes R.’s characteristic pathos.
Helic takes the album into a new place by adding barebones melody into the equation, the noise hymnal of its predecessor becomes an oscillating accompaniment to injections of slow-buzzing notation. It sounds like he’s playing the ghost of a keyboard, each burst of melody barely recognisable, sonically distorted beyond being recognisable. The timbre is heavily skewed but, tranquilisingly opiate. Beyond sedative.
It’s truly bizarre how antithetical this eviscerated album concept is to R.’s work in Cattle and Soft Issues. I think of those projects as really intense and in your face noise music in totally different ways and this is noise music turned into static. It feels as though on another album, R. would have taken every layer off this album and put them onto one track. Here the ideas are stretched out across a whole extended play and inspected meticulously with great care and attention paid not just to each track but, to each instrument. There’s a clear effort to highlight each sound and idea and really allow the listener to focus in on it and question it. The success of A Rope Unfolds in Pitch Black stems from its excellent production and fastidious approach to the nuances of performance and songwriting. Often, I find in music its not about flaunting technical prowess it’s about creating an atmosphere and really connecting with your emotions and channeling them into your work, Material Loss has in its short existence achieved that tremendously.