When walking under powerlines there’s that low-range hum and gentle crackling which emanates from the wires. It comes with an intangible sense that dangerous currents are wiggling into your pores, altering your genetics. And then the fear that a bolt of electricity could erupt from overhead at any moment, a freak twist of fate collapsing the powerlines. Angry snakes of electrified wire swing down to strangle you in a whiplash of white-hot noise. This is an anxiety brought to life on the opening track of Permanent Cavity.
Altar of Flies is the moniker of Swedish drone and noise artist Mattias Gustafsson. This is his debut full-length, a collection entrenched in drone but pushing the genre to its limits in terms of dynamic and composition. Gustaffson is never complacent enough to sit on a single tone or frequency for a punishing length of time. He manipulates a baseline of gentle analogue drones and punctures them with shards of crusty feedback and debris. Tracks never finish where they started and Gustaffson is in complete control of every single journey. He uses quiet to build tension, and when only he’s ready does he unleash the screaming beast you knew was lurking in the dark all along.
At his harshest, the sound reminds me of Lasse Marhaug, while the gentler moments remind me of Wolf Eyes at their most creepy. There are moments of sea sick synthesisers that raise a toast to the more ambient moments of Sweden’s Black Metal history without falling into theatrics and cheese.
The phrase Post-Industrial comes up a lot in reviews of Altar of Flies, and while that sounds to me like some of the wank I had to deal with at art school back in the day, I think the reference to the Industrial scene of the late seventies and early eighties is important here. Because although parts of Permanent Cavity are heavily processed, there’s not much that sounds digitally cold. It’s organic and warm (and also fucking terrifying at times) and at the core of its racket lies lies a collection of human junk and hand made sound machines, all hungry and vying to eat each others souls. There’s a beautiful sense of decay about this record, a permanent cavity indeed.