, August 7th, 2013 05:54
From that first glass-shattering shriek, held and sustained at its highest, most anguished point, it becomes readily apparent that this is not meant as an album to sink into. Margaret Chardiet has poured her whole being into the density of its energy, a pure and unbridled howl to confront any expectation for those expecting to dip a toe into the world of Pharmakon. Such a wail is an unavoidably bodily experience - throats ripped raw and screamed hoarse, whole physical weight thrown behind the roar, all rationality and psychological control forsaken in that moment of white-hot emotive exertion. So begins Abandon.
The body of the listener takes a fair battering amongst this too, as Pharmakon seeks to transfer her pain directly and forcefully unto any and all listeners. Chardiet has an impressive eye for the kind of production that makes the most of minimal composition. Every sound has had its corners carefully chiselled into sharp definition - always finding the hardest, most penetrative angle possible for maximum physical impact, until the overall sensation for the listener is one of being cleaved cleanly in twain.
Short stabs quickly fall into a rhythmic framework which serves to intensify their magnitude, while throbs and small dirges form a backbone of simple brutal repetition. Where such an intensity of emotional outpouring might otherwise quickly diffuse into a swampy mess, here it lasts and lasts - becoming more painful, even, as 'Milkweed' transitions into 'It Hangs Heavy', and then 'Ache'. The duress from such exertion on Chardiet is obvious: that first howl has now become a rasping snarl, and words become lost in guttural torrents.
Small pockets of introspection do occasionally creep in. The fiery torment of 'Ache' burns out into something altogether more spectral in its last two minutes, and 'Pitted' seems more of a lament than a battle cry. These moments draw into sharp relief the cathartic nature of Abandon - of purging deep to burn everything out. Accordingly, Pharmakon live is an extension of this: Chardiet is a duality of a presence, moving between protracted, direct eye contact with her audience, unnerving them, and then periods where she retreats, apparently falling back into herself.
The most thrilling track here (by some margin) is the last. During 'Crawling On Bruised Knees' Chardiet treats her voice with a kind of pitch-shifted electronic death-rattle - affectingly inhuman and coolly detached. Slow, grinding engines buzz and swoop as if overhead, apocalyptic drums beat a slow march forward. It's highly reminiscent of the work of Kris Lapke's power electronics project Alberich, particularly the vast NATO Uniformen boxset. But where that release preached militaristic terror through crushing repetition (at over three hours long it's next to impossible to sit through attentively in one sitting), 'Crawling on Bruised Knees' acts more like a deadly bombing run - flying off once its payload is expended.
Abandon is quite short for a full-length album, but its physicality and intensity leaves the listener exhausted in a way that doesn't require further expansion. Its swift, keen-edged attack is a visceral experience, but beneath the surface lies a slightly more veiled intention - Chardiet accessing deeper, truer emotions and sharing them with her audience.