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Sacred Bones double : Var and Pharmakon

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Brooklyn’s Sacred Bones Records label can always be relied upon to deliver the goods and – as we found out earlier this year – they seem to enjoy spoiling us by dropping double doses of awesomeness on the same day. On May 14 they’ll reveal another pair of aces, the first of which will be of particular interest if, like me, you were knocked out by the most recent Iceage LP: not content with making one “album of the year” contender in 2013, that band’s frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt has teamed up with Sexdrome’s Loke Rahbek as Vår (formerly War), whose debut album No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers deals with similar issues to You’re Nothing – love, loss, alienation, hope, fear – albeit in a decidely less chaotic way. Drawing inspiration from minimalist post-punk, industrial noise, ’80s synthpop and acid house, the group – recently expanded to include fellow Danes Kristian Emdal (of Copenhagen punk band Lower) and Lukas Hojland – employ elements as diverse as acoustic guitar, trumpet, power electronics and field recordings to channel those emotions into creating something more positive than the flailing, angry noise one might reasonably expect. The title track’s dreamy, hypnotic monologue, for example, is really quite lovely, as is the gauzey, triumphant “Into Distance“; “The World Fell” (below), meanwhile, sounds like Ian Curtis’ ghost dropping into the Hacienda and indulging in an Ecstasy-fuelled homoerotic bro-down/ jam session with New Order. A strangely beautiful and surprisingly moving record.

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Not quite as pretty is Abandon, the first proper studio release from New Yorker Margaret Chardiet AKA Pharmakon, a name derived from an Ancient Greek religious practice involving drugging and expelling human scapegoats from a community – either by exile or sacrifice – during times of hardship or disaster to bring about purification. Itself a ritual of sorts, Abandon plays like an exorcism in the form of a four-part industrial power electronics suite during which you’ll swear you can hear all manner of evil spirits leaving Chardiet’s body. Believe it or not, Throbbing Gristle-esque closer “Crawling On Bruised Knees” (below) actually represents the more accessible end of the Pharmakon sound spectrum, as it finds the 22 year old casting her spells in a relatively calm, measured manner compared to the blood-curdling, black metal-inspired strangled banshee howls that dominate the record’s first half. Still, like the three tracks that precede it, it’s an intense and deliberately polarising experience, and one that could only be more appropriately named if you substituted the words “bruised knees” with “broken” and “glass”; using the kind of sound palette you’d expect to find scoring a particularly violent horror movie – shrill screeches, doomy bass tones, ominous synth drones, clanking machine rhythms and death-rattle pulses – Chardiet brings her unsettling narrative to a gory climax with all the subtlety of a breezeblock to the skull. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but for those with a strong stomach and a desire to be challenged Abandon is a thrilling, visceral exercise in noise as catharsis.

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Var’s No One Dances Quite Like My Brothers and Pharmakon’s Abandon are both out May 14 via Sacred Bones Records.

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About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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