The name Rites Wild conjures visions of violent or malevolent ecstasy – of sparagmotic dismemberment and sublime highs. The purpose of that type of rite has long been lost on the western world, and in the absence of any real ecstatic expression, we’re now encouraged to drone on in monotone with barely any sensory deviation. We’re like what Clov observes when he surveys the audience through a telescope in Beckett’s apocalyptic stage play, Endgame: “I see… a multitude… in transports… of joy.”
It’s telling that Stacey Wilson has named her own label Heavy Lows. Its few releases are akin to Rites Wild: they’re similarly spartan in tone, but they share a weird optimism with the label founder’s own work that is important in light of this release. With Rites Wild, it’s almost as though Wilson is trying to reach for some form of ecstatic release by way of devotion to a minimal, brooding, quietly angry music.
Ways Of Being doesn’t change much from her M.O. to date. Its bulk comprises songs already released on cassette EPs over the last 18 months, with a couple of newer tunes rounding the package out to LP length. It presents us with a raft of anaemic drum machines, glowing synths and guttural vocal intonations, meshed into cerebral dubscapes and dirgey organ preset waltzes.
The most striking thing about this collection is the way it balances the cosmic with the intimate. On one hand, each element is tailored to sound as though it’s reaching for the cusp of perception. Drum machines and vocals are cloaked in immense reverb, and walls of delayed texture unspool endlessly into the distance on tunes like ‘Detached Living’. The title track spins a web of resigned, melancholic pop, which is squeezed through a sifting phase shifter to give the impression that its perimeters are slowly warping. Wilson’s vocal on ‘Work Ethic’ is so obfuscated by the burgeoning effects that it seems (appropriately) like a disembodied invocation. But the overall sound of everything is focused, almost muted, and utterly contained, as though by the sleight of a carefully disciplined hand that’s corralling each strand into the strictures of a small loom.
It certainly feels ritualistic, but not in any wild way. If it is reaching for some unattainable sublime, then it fails unequivocally, and this is what makes it so compulsive. It’s the thing that gives the aimless reggae clip of ‘Minimal Where’, or the star-gazing resignation of ‘Ill Health’, inexplicable drive and purpose. It’s what imbues the exquisite and demented waltz of ‘Seasonal Shine’ with a kind of galling, tragic beauty.
It’s meditative – it illustrates what we find at the end of the day’s drone, lighting the distant and intangible contours of what little hope we can still cherish in the depths of each insular, quiet night. Similarly, it’s transcendent and slow – it reaches for catharsis with a thoroughly uncanny discipline. How are we to tear ourselves from these oppressive screens, but with slow perseverance?
Label: Not Not Fun
Release date: October 2012