Over Your Heads Forever

Ramleh founder and stalwart of the UK underground Gary Mundy has recorded under a number of monikers and in various bands but, aside from Ramleh itself, the name he comes back to most frequently is Kleistwahr, which has been going as a solo project since the early eighties and clearly serves as an important vehicle for Mundy’s intricate mind. Early Kleistwahr releases, such as the superb 1983 tape Myth, were abrasive slabs of caustic power electronics, like a beatless Whitehouse slowed down to the speed of Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Convincing People’, but as Gary Mundy has matured so has his music, and new technologies have allowed him to expand and open up his sound. 2014’s This World is Not my Home was already a major step forwards in terms of sophistication and emotion, but Over Your Heads Forever takes the Kleistwahr project to a new level.

For hardcore noise fans, this may not initially be an evolution that’s entirely to their liking. As the album opens with distorted, gothic organ and synth drones on ‘The Last Chain That Bound, The Spoiler Now Rends’, their expansive, emotionally-resonant melody bolstered by Mundy’s signature vocal ululations. There are a number of notable vocalists operating in the field of noise, but none carries the weight of feeling that Gary Mundy does, especially when he’s recording as Kleistwahr, even though the words themselves are unintelligible. Instead, his vocalisations become fractured laments drowned out by the elements, a lone voice railing, unheard, at the ignominies of life. Speaking to me via Facebook, Mundy mentioned being inspired by reflections on the past, wasted time, war and faith (or its failures, more precisely), and all of those themes come across in the tones of regret and anger he imbues his voice with, regardless of the music it is deployed over.

And that music is the most intricate one is likely to hear in “pure” noise this side of Helm or Valerio Tricoli’s recent releases for PAN. Mundy adeptly melds organ, synth and guitar, folding lines of abrasive feedback into more melodic textures to create a tense whirlwind of abrasion and subtle musicality. The first section of the album, which evolves more as a suite than independent tracks is a fitful accumulation of these layers of sound, in a sort of lo-fi take on the dream pop and shoegaze of Galaxie 500 or Slowdive, but with added angst. As an admirer of the more sombre side of psychedelia (Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Butthole Surfers, Pink Fairies, etc), Mundy is no stranger to the allure of a decent melodic structure, and as it builds and builds, this opening section of Over Your Heads Forever is proof, were it needed, that there is more to noise than mere feedback, oversaturation and brutality, at least where Kleistwahr is concerned.

But if there’s more to Kleistwahr than noise, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its place, and the second section of the album blasts away the dying embers of the first in a wall of white noise and demented fuzz, a barrage of guitar mulch and mutated synths as petrifying as anything you’re likely to hear all year. This is the “War” segment of the album, and Mundy pulls no punches with track titles like “We Cursed Through Sludge” and a foreboding atmosphere that is pregnant with impending violence. From the almighty morass emerges a lone guitar, gently strummed, which itself folds into a chiming elegy of massed vocals and shimmering synths before another explosion of squalling feedback whisks the procession onwards once again.

Over Your Heads Forever is an album of constant flux, an ambitious odyssey into the depths of the human condition. Despite what the title accidentally intimates, this is not a lofty flight of fancy but a deliberate trawl into emotional Hades, but it’s one handled with deftness and grace, even as all hell breaks loose around the listener’s ears. In many ways, it is Gary Mundy’s most fully-realised statement to date, as his ambition carries him further than ever before. And noise-heads fear not: far from leaving the brutal raw power of his early material and live shows behind, that unrelenting assault that can blitz a hangover is now refined and given deeper meaning, as Gary Mundy peers into the abyss and takes something of it with him to share with us.

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