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Only Now & Beneath The Ruins
Anamnesis Dustin Krcatovich , March 23rd, 2021 08:59

A collaboration between two disparate California musicians sometimes feels like just that, but it's not without high points of heavy, quasi-cinematic action

Sometimes it feels like the whole "cyberpunk" thing really petered out before its time. Perhaps it just got too diluted and self-contradictory, or just plain corny, like regular punk. Still, maybe the solution was not to doff it, but to get even more granular and really make a go of it across genres and lifestyles: cyberhippie, cybermetal, cyberzydeco? The possibilities are truly limitless.

Had we careened down that slippery slope, this collaboration between guitarist Beneath The Ruins (Peter Arensdorf, also of doom-rock band King Woman) and electronic producer Only Now (Kush Arora) would be either "Cyberamerican Primitive" or "Cyberspaghetti Western". There are shades of Fahey and Morricone, Reznor and Lustmord; mostly, though, the stink of Earth is all over this project, perhaps most recalling Dylan Carlson's 2017 collaboration with The Bug, Concrete Desert. It shares with that album a layer of (cyber)alienation akin to what Kevin Martin brought to those proceedings, though it doesn't feel quite as cohesive in its mixture.

Not to write it off, mind. Arensdorf brings some sturdy desert-fried riffage to the table here, the kind of shit that feels good when you play it loud under the hot sun. The album hits its best stride when he leans into these heavy, doomy melodies, but that isn't all the album does. The track with my favorite title, 'Ghost Town Drift', is a cool, subdued little nugget of molasses-creep tension that brings Arora more to the foreground.

The pairing of Arora's cold digital sheen and the radiant heat of Arensdorf's guitar can be a strange, off-putting juxtaposition at times. On the best tracks, like opener 'Showdown', it pays off in primal, cinematic oomph. Some of the more restrained passages, though, feel cinematic in a less flattering sense, like maybe they could serve as a backdrop for the "romantic" scenes in a late 80s action movie (yeah, I know that's going to sound alluring to some of you sick fucks... hey, more power to ya).

Maybe my ears just crave greater extremes (I spent my 20s bouncing between Michigan noise basements and depressive singer-songwriter gigs, what do you expect?), but I'd love for Anamnesis to either go more fucked or more tender. If we're aiming for sturm und drang, really drive that crud into my lobe; if I'm supposed to feel feelings and shit, knock me on the floor. It's important to meet a piece of work on its own level and not what one was hoping to get out of it, but finding emotional purchase is tricky here. It's surely cool-sounding, and many will dig it plenty on those merits alone, but some might crave something more. It's perfectly in line with the cyberfuture we were promised, but it might not be the very first thing you'd wanna ram into your eXistenZ-hole or whatever.