The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website

Reviews

Zwischenwelt
Paranormale Aktivitat John Calvert , March 23rd, 2011 11:00

Add your comment »

Released on Richard D James's Rephlex imprint, Zwischenwelt (German for 'the inbetween world') is an international project featuring surviving member of the legendary Drexcyia, Gerald Donald. Typically of Donald, (an undying exponent of first-wave Detroit techno) Paranormale Aktivitat is sounds deserted and coldly mechanical. He fills gaseous environs with the sound of contracting metal and retro Roland effects that spit battery acid and blue sparks onto the tense, prowling beats. It gives the impression of a hissing, grinding machine, moving scorpion-like through the snowy forests of his now native Germany. Were it not for the Siren-esque vocals preserving a very frail sense of the human, its sparse ambient workings would stall in the freeze, suffocating the fascinating sci-fi story at its core: a future-occult mystery where every night a blood red sun sets on the ghosts of Russian sailors, and the glare burns cataract-riddled eyes through the interstices of venetian blinds.

Based around an extremely sinister field of pseudo-scientific research known as parapsychology, the "frontier science of the mind" according to the bods, Paranormale Activitat presents a series of cinematic moodscapes channelling ideas of precognition, thought transference, mind-to-mind interrogation and various other face-whitening practices which, alas, are the stuff of fiction. Like much of Donald's music it's shot through with the corroded, rusting aesthesis of peak-era Detroit circa 1985, which as a truly gifted audile he conjures with almost claustrophobic verisimilitude, evoking that certain 'something in the water' that pervaded the year. With Reagan's all-conquering reinstatement and the Star Wars initiative threatening to destabilize the MAD paradigm, that certain something could be summarized as fear – measuring way off the Geiger scale in the year Alan Moore began work on Watchmen. In 1981 USA defence spending was at 178 billion dollars. By 1986, it was 367 billion.

By combining the two elements within such futuristic currents, the powerfully transportative Paranormale Aktivitat works like some type of alternative history of Cold War espionage; a 'second reality' (such as the track 'Telekenesis') where militarized psychokinesis is real and the almighty minds of neuro-gods clash along the Iron Curtain, their retaliations echoing back and forth like tracer fire in the lonely night air. Methodically and meditatively elicited by a patient producer in Donald, it's a world you could get lost in, where psychic spies hunt KGB agents for state secrets, eliminating moustachioed spooks through flaking plasterboard with vein-bursting, orgasmic focus. As the album continues, all kinds of shadowy figures and dangerous scenarios come to the fore amidst the throbbing, sulphuric conditions. On 'Materialization', as if in the grips of Capgras psychosis, British double-agents slam doors in the deserted corridors of labyrinthine Moscow hotels. On 'Enigmata' unremarkable-seeming moles relieve dim-witted sentries of their door keys, and on 'Remote Viewer' we watch behind a two-way mirror as bureaucratic overlords fall at the mercy of red-lipped femme fatales, who move like cigarette smoke around your body before escaping through the bowels of crumbling European cities on 'Telemetric'. It's a suspenseful, hypnotic invocation of your footsteps-in-the-alleyway and bugged light-fixings stuff, radiating intrigue and smoking gun dread. If you turn the lights out you can almost feel a pistol in your hand, and a silencer in the other.

"Vina" is one such super-powerful enchantress appearing on 'Telekenisis', whose "pleasure is high / [and] her focus key". "She can brand you with her iron mind" Beta Evers intones, in an icy Germanic accent "Good luck Vina / She makes hearts stop beating". In sharp relief with the metallic backdrop, Ever's luring, breathy dispassion creates a clever juxtaposition, forging a connection between the fear of Red indoctrination - symbolically a penetration of the mind - and penetration of the sexual kind. This is a reoccurring motif, in the tradition of late-Cold War horror. Thematically, the obvious reference point is Scanners, buts it's the sights and sounds of Ken Russell sci-fi horror Altered States most keenly felt on Paranormale Aktivitat, especially at its most cosmic on 'Cryptic Dimension' and 'Apparition'. Referenced by a host of industrial and grindcore bands including Godflesh, Ministry and Agrophobic Nosebleed, the film is based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like Ketamine and LSD. Like Russell's cult classic, Paranormal Aktivitat is hyper-vivid but flooded with the nagging suggestion that the dream, whether you like it or not, is real.

It seems fitting that Paranormale Aktivitat was build from invisible lines of code, transmitting virtually around cosmopolitan Europe. Constructing the record in increments, New York DJ/producer Susana Correia, Spanish producer Penelope Martin and vocalist Evers emailed parts to and fro with Donald until everything tessellated. They've composed a sleekly finessed album in physical isolation from one another, tangibly heightening the atmosphere of disassociation and paranoid silences, and, as the tagline to the aforementioned Altered States read, "Welcome To The Outer Reaches of Future Shock".

If you love our features, news and reviews, please support what we do with a one-off or regular donation. Year-on-year, our corporate advertising is down by around 90% - a figure that threatens to sink The Quietus. Hit this link to find out more and keep on Black Sky Thinking.

E. Olhc
Mar 24, 2011 1:31pm

"Move round the body like cigarette smoke before escaping through the bowel.."

Whoops, not a good place for a reader to pause in a sentence! Brilliant article though...great imagery of sci-fo cold war.

Most well thought out on The Quietus?

Reply to this Admin

Karl Sweeney
Mar 24, 2011 2:02pm

Great review. That's me sold on this record!

Reply to this Admin

Matthew
Mar 25, 2011 4:17pm

Just what the Dr ordered. Cool review.

Reply to this Admin

DC
Mar 30, 2011 1:34pm

tagline is from Scanners ;)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmJC3ZaXBEc

Reply to this Admin