The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Beast Nest
Sicko Daryl Worthington , January 28th, 2022 09:44

Survivors of Oakland's Ghost ship fire find catharsis exploring inner and outer space

A crackling vocal teeters between sorrow and hope while an organ rises underneath. Sudden flurries of electronics dart around like electromagnetic fields rendered audible, elegantly negating each other until just a single pulse surges through. As soon as it’s arrived, it peels back once more into a blur of smoldering audio. ‘Relief/Refuge’, the opening track from Beast Nest’s new album, Sicko, feels like it’s building a carapace of vivid beats and synths to shield your mind from the outside world. But the urgency with which it stacks rhythms and textures makes clear this shelter is hurtling through an ever-evolving cosmos.

As Beast Nest, performance artist, curator, composer, and arts organiser Sharmi Basu strives to show “that the abstract and immaterial experiences of trauma can be transformed through the process of creation in art and sound.” They mention the record was created in the five years following the Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California, as Basu and their community processed that tragedy. Their work aims to forge “new narratives for decolonial thinking toward individual and collective liberation.”

Sicko sits in the gap between introversion and reaching out for connection. Deep, heady worlds of luminous synth pads and bristling arpeggiators sitting alongside overlapped beats of pounding elation. What unites it is sheer intensity and diversity of sound. It’s not intimidating, these vibrations feel like a supportive nudge out of familiarity, a glimpse into a new perspective.

The drums cutting through bird sound on ‘Kim, People Are Dying’, or ‘Ur Doing Great Sweaty’s skyward facing groove feel firmly pointed towards going out, of finding solace at the dance. A form of house music where the architects were wearing kaleidoscopes for spectacles, perhaps. ‘Jsun’ and ‘Into The Tangerine’ go the other way, burrowing ever further down and demanding contemplation to unpick the interlocking constructions. It’s in this unison between inner and outer, between movement and deep listening, that Basu really works their magic on Sicko. Finding serene release in both exploding outwards and turning inwards.

That’s only reinforced by Basu’s stethoscope like knack for finding pulses in the most unusual places. Flickers of gravity strike in the most abstract, formless moments, registering patterns even where beats have all dissolved and only ephemera and drift remain. Though the thick textures sometimes seem like a protective coating, the vibrancy in the sonics make clear the shell they’re building around you has dazzling graffiti on its inner surface.

Sicko bridges the gap between supernova and quiet reverie. Delivering a schematic of inner and outer space, solitude and solidarity, and rendering slightly more permeable the boundaries that hold it all together.