Pharmakon


(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Abandon (2013), 7.5/10
Bestial Burden (2014), 6.5/10
Contact (2017), 6.5/10
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Pharmakon, the project of New York's vocalist and electronic musician Margaret Chardiet, evoked the harrowing vocal catastrophes of Diamanda Galas on Abandon (Sacred Bones, 2013). The mostly instrumental overture Milkweed unwinds as a flow of hissing dissonance and distorted voices very much in the vein of Throbbing Gristle but its alter-ego It Hangs Heavy then implodes under the weight of tortured screams. The relentless funeral rite Pitted is only the appetizer for the terrifying caged liturgy of Ache, eventually drowned in a swarm of ghosts. Crawling On Bruised Knees is a cross between air bombing and nervous breakdown, with a robotic voice that tries to recite a poem. This is horror-industrial theater of a very high caliber.
The 27-minute Sour Sap is the ultimate recital, a dialogue between martial sub-bass and beasty vocal sounds followed by a tribal machine dance, a bleak bass melody, industrial miasmas, a witchy vomit-like lied accompanied with metronomic metallurgic noise, and then orgasmic breasthing, marching prison chains, a distorted chaotic rave-up, After another pause, it suddenly takes off like a swirling pulsing Von Lmo jam, and it's the final assault. While a bit disorganized and probably "accidental" (just a computer collage of powerful leftovers), Sour Sap feels like a multi-movement suite, a program of expressionist pantomimes, a concentrate of unholy subhuman noises.

Margaret Chardiet's vocals steal the show on Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones, 2014), which opens with the breathing orgy of Vacuum. The eight-minute Intent Or Instinct builds up traumatic tension as it blends an agonizing tribal rhythm with her feral screams. She is at her best when she unleashes her demonic Diamanda Galas-esque invocation over martial moribund percussion in Body Betrays Itself. Her performance oer childish tom-tom banging in Autoimmune sounds like Foetus vomiting on a Pere Ubu-esque post-industrial voodoobilly. The seven-minute Bestial Burden indulges in more conventional recitation, an expressionist kammerspiel devoured in a whirlwind of witchy laughter. Certainly not as powerful as Abandon, this diligent follow-up sounded like a failed attempt to flesh out centripetal intuitions when in fact it ended up focusing her art even more on a particular style.

Contact (Sacred Bones, 2017) breaks very little new ground. The industrial setting comes and goes, as do the sado-masochistic overtones. Pharmakon is taking more chances, which is sometimes a welcome relief from her ferocious litanies. Her vocals acquire a sensual languor in Nakedness of Need (6:18) amid a volley of electrical discharges, alternating pain and pleasure, until an ear-splitting drilling noise terminates her agony. No Natural Order (6:50) boasts a more chaotic noisescape than usual, raging around ugly snoring/farting pulsations. The relatively placid Sleepwalking Form (7:34), on the other hand, is mostly tedious. The relentless growling feedback of the four-minute instrumental Somatic seems like a preview of the album's standout: a hysterically pulsing Transmission that sounds like a hypersonic remix of Suicide's psychobilly.

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(Copyright © 2012 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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