We lost guitarist David Roback last week. No word yet on the cause of death; he was just 61. Losing him at such a young age is awful, most of all for those close to him but also for those of his who appreciated his work. Roback helped launched three unreal projects: Mazzy Star most famously, Opal and Rain Parade.
Peter “Sleazy” Christopherson’s passing back in 2010 was similarly premature and difficult to accept. Like Roback, he was a member of three seminal bands, albeit in a different genre: Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil. Shortly before we lost him, Christopherson had started work on a new project along with John Deek and Danny Hyde. Deek has also since died.
Electric Sewer Age is darkly textured and at times aggressively difficult. But there’s also an accessibility inherent in the work. The trio were accomplished artists by the time this project got under way. There’s a real sophistication on display here for those willing to approach their three releases with some openness.
The new one is Contemplating Nothingness. It is the second Electric Sewer Age title to have been completed by Hyde after his bandmates’ passing. It is a beautiful thing for an artist to see unfinished work through to a public release. In this case, it’s that backstory that softens the often rough edges of the material. Because we understand the circumstances of its creation, what would otherwise be a powerful avant-garde recording is that and a good deal more. It is an act of love.
The vibe is constrained, occasionally downcast. Gloomy spoken word pieces and heavily treated vocals decorate dark ambient beats, synth lines and a couple of acoustic flourishes.
“Surrender To The Crags” feels like a late-night stroll through Tahrir Square. Mesmerizing and not a little bit intimidating.
“Self Doubting Trip” features some of the recording’s darkest poetry. “There’s a stranger at my brother’s grave; muttering nonsense to himself. Words that seem absurd but brave; needs his medication raised. I do wonder who this interloper is; I need to check my memories. He looks too familiar I know that face; it is me, is it me? It is I. The face contorts as I realize; the pixels truncate as I recognize. The image fades as I normalize; the fucking trip extends as I conceptualize.”
The closer is “Dekotur,” a kind of electronic end-credits piece. Heard out of context, you might think it part of a horror flick soundtrack. Appreciated with some understanding of the three artist involved, it feels more like a uniquely Electric Sewer Age exit.